As of 8:20 p.m. on Tuesday, January 9, the death toll has climbed to 18. Click here for the full report.
There are now 13 confirmed deaths attributable to the mudslides sparked in the aftermath of the Thomas Fire. The victims range in age from small children to young adults to adults. The number of deaths is expected only to increase; incident commanders are now preparing to release regular updates on the number of casualties every two hours.
Authorities have also issued boil-water notices for Montecito Water District customers. The rainstorm and debris flows severely damaged the South Coast Conduit, the 26-mile pipeline that carries water from the northern part of Lake Cachuma to Montecito and Carpinteria. Freshwater distribution stations may also be set up, according to County Supervisor Das Williams.
The conduit was damaged in multiple places. Its exact condition is still unclear, Williams said, but the preliminary reports are “very bad.” It ruptured at points along a three to four mile stretch from Barker Pass to Ortega Reservoir.
First responders used multiple large helicopters and dozens of ground units to respond to a backlog of at least 75 calls for help at one point.
Parts of the district are currently without water. Other parts will be without water soon, according to Montecito Water District manager Nick Turner. Turner could not say the number of total customers impacted. Staff and emergency personnel is having difficulty accessing the pipe because of the debris.
“We will be working 24 hours a day to finish identifying the main break locations and getting them repaired,” Turner said. “It is going to take days.”
The pipeline is the main source of water for the South Coast. According to COMB (Cachuma Operation and Maintenance Board), “No redundant pipeline exists for conveyance of water supply in the South Coast Conduit when a section of the pipeline needs to be isolated for emergencies or repair.”
Montecito Water District staff advised customers to bring all water to a boil for one minute and let it cool before using. “Boiled or bottled water should be used for drinking and food preparation until further notice. This is the preferred method to assure that the water is safe to drink,” district staff said in a statement.
By Paul Wellman