At least five people have died and a number of large number of homes have been damaged or destroyed in a series of landslides and flash floods in Santa Barbara and Los Angeles counties, California, on Tuesday 9 January 2018. All of the known deaths occurred in the Montecito and Carpinteria areas of Santa Barbara County, where a number of people, including several children have also reportedly been injured. Local authorities are so concerned by these events that evacuation orders have been put in place in parts of Los Angeles, Santa Barbara and Ventura counties.
A search dog enters a damaged building to look for survivors following a mudflow in Montecito, Santa Barbara County, on 9 January 2018. Santa Barbara County Fire Department.
The events occurred following a severe rain storm that brought over 12 cm of rain to many areas in the space of a few hours. Landslides are are a common problem after severe weather events, as excess pore water pressure can overcome cohesion in soil and sediments, allowing them to flow like liquids. Approximately 90% of all landslides are caused by heavy rainfall. In this case much if the rain fell in areas that had been badly affected by wildfires late in 2017. This made communities particularly vulnerable to landslips and mudflows, as the wildfires had destroyed much of the natural vegetation that covers hillsides in the area, the roots of which would normally help to stabilise the hillside during severe weather events.
A mudflow covering a road in Los Angeles County following a severe rainstorm on 9 January 2018. Los Angeles Police Department.
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