A powerful winter storm barreled into Southern California on Monday, forcing the mass evacuation of Montecito and other communities exactly five years after mudslides in the same area left 23 people dead. Pounding rain wreaked havoc throughout the coastal counties north of Los Angeles, bringing flooding, road closures, and tragedy, including the death of a motorist who entered a flooded roadway and the presumed death of a 5-year-old boy who was swept away by floodwaters in San Luis Obispo County.
The storm, which was expected to move through Los Angeles, Orange, and other southern counties through Tuesday, dumped more than 16 inches of rain in some mountain areas Monday and prompted pleas for people to stay indoors. The storm aimed at Los Angeles County on Monday night, causing widespread street flooding and trapping some people in cars. Firefighters rescued two people after their cars fell down a sinkhole that opened up in Chatsworth. In Ventura County, firefighters rescued a man who was on the roof of his car after it became stuck on a flooded road. In Montecito, the storm called to mind the devastating January 2018 mudslides that killed 23 people, destroyed 130 homes, and caused hundreds of millions of dollars in damage. Officials hoped improvements to flood defenses made after the event would help improve community protection this week, said Michael Anderson, a climatologist with the California Department of Water Resources.
The evacuations were primarily due to the rugged terrain and the types of hazards associated with wildfire trails. In January 2005 a mudslide killed 10 people in the community of La Conchita. Authorities were also wary of possible flooding in the Ventura River, a homeless camp. 18 people were rescued Monday from islands along the Ventura River and areas under bridges, said Brian McGrath, Ventura County Fire Chief.