At least 15 people lost their lives after the first major storm to hit southern California this winter unleashed flooding and mudslides that toppled homes and prompted emergency rescues and evacuation orders in an area that just endured historically intense wildfires.
Long-awaited rain fell on a region left vulnerable to new forms of natural disaster after spending weeks ablaze, the type of pivot from weather hazard to weather hazard that is common to a state that periodically grapples with drought, flooding, earthquakes and wildfires.
By Tuesday morning, some places in the greater Los Angeles area had seen more than 10 centimeters of rainfall.
Those heavy rains brought severe and sometimes-deadly consequences, including what one official called a "catastrophic mud flow" that hurtled onto Highway 101 early in the morning. Officials in Santa Barbara said at least 15 people had died, with at least 25 others injured, a number poised to grow as search-and-rescue operations continued.
"It looked like a World War I battlefield. It was literally a carpet of mud and debris everywhere," Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown said at a press conference, describing a landscape littered with boulders, mangled cars and downed powerlines.
Houses were swept away, stretches of major roads were rendered inaccessible by inundating mud and rain and people were ordered out of their homes in areas that last month were menaced and forced to evacuate by raging blazes.
Firefighters rescued scores of people who were trapped in vehicles and homes by water and debris.
By the afternoon potentially dozens of people remained unaccounted for and first responders were at work evacuating hundreds of people trapped in a canyon.
Source: News Agencies, Edited by website team