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Two Bodies Newly Identified in Montecito Mudflow


The Sutthithepa family suffered another blow with the information that the body of Pinit “Oom” Sutthithepa was identified by the Sheriff’s Coroner on Saturday. He was the father of 6-year-old Pasta (Peerawat Sutthithepa) who was also killed in the flood. Daughter Lydia, who is 2 years old, remains missing. He was the husband of Aw (Yuphawan Sutthithepa) and the son of Perm Taylor, whose stories appear here.

Similarly, the Corey family is enduring terrible losses. The identity of the body found Saturday morning was released earlier today as being that of Morgan Christine Corey, who was 25. She was the sister of Sawyer Corey, a 12-year-old who also died in the flood.

As well as Lydia Sutthithepa, rescue workers are actively searching for Jack Cantin, 17; Faviola Benitez Calderon, 28; and Jack Keating, 53.

As of this morning, 2,338 people are involved in the storm’s aftermath, including 39 pairs of rescue and cadaver dogs and their handlers, 163 engine companies, three helicopters, eight bulldozers, and 10 technical rescue personnel. The numbers of destroyed and damaged residences were 65 and 462, respectively, but damage inspectors have begun to comb the area. The numbers are expected to change by the end of the day.

SoCal Gas has been assessing and repairing gas lines in an attempt to restore service to about 3,600 customers. Part of that was an extraordinary release of gas on Saturday morning, geysering above the 100 block of West Mountain Drive without much warning to residents, the Independent was told by those who experienced it. The county has been sending messages via Twitter about ongoing repair work such as this at @countyofsb. That message was posted at 11:26 a.m. yesterday, about a half hour after the work was to start and just a few minutes before residents heard the hissing of gas — described as sounding like a jet taking off — and caught the first whiffs. Similarly, a Twitter post at 6:01 p.m. states “there is no need for alarm” about gas smells or explosions in the Carpinteria area that evening.

The repair situation is fluid and as rapid as possible to get everyone back online, said gas company spokesperson Melissa Bailey. She said they regretted scaring people to death, but with the speed at which they are attempting to work, Twitter is their best method of reaching people to forewarn about coming gas work. An assessment of the extent of the damage to the underground pipes will continue for “several days,” the company website states. When service will return is unknown. To stay abreast of gas repairs, Bailey suggested following @countyofsb on Twitter.

Evacuation orders and warnings were lifted for the other burn areas: Whittier, Sherpa, and Alamo. Summerland and Carpinteria were also released from evacuation warnings and orders. The remaining mandatory evacuation zone is as it was before: within Montecito, bordered by Hot Springs/Olive Mill roads, Sheffield to East Valley to Ladera, from Los Padres National Forest to the Pacific.

Other updates to report for Sunday are that some beaches remain closed due to raw sewage in the water while other waters are considered to be safe by county Public Health. Bacteria levels remain too high for human health in the waters off beaches from El Capitan to Carpinteria State Beach; previously, they’d ranged from Gaviota to the county line with Ventura. Fecal coliform and enterococcus levels remain above state health standards in the ocean off Carp, Summerland, Hammonds, Butterfly, East Beach, Goleta, and El Capitan beaches.

Based on ocean water tests on Friday, January 12, these beaches are open, though Public Health advises remaining at least 400 feet from where mud deposits are being dumped: Leadbetter, Arroyo Burro, Hope Ranch, Sands, Refugio, Gaviota, Jalama, Guadalupe Dunes. As well, if the sand or water looks or smells unusual, due to the unknown amounts of sewage and potential contaminants that could be present, avoid contact.

Goleta Beach water contaminants were about three times the state health threshold on Friday compared to about 25 times greater the day before for fecal coliform. That beach is one of the dumping sites for Montecito’s mud, as rescuers remove mud in the search for bodies and crews work to extricate Highway 101 from its grip. According to the City of Goleta, Carpinteria is moving its mud to the beach off Ash Avenue. Vegetation is going to the landfill grinders to the west, and other materials are being sorted at the Ventura Fairgrounds to the east.

With the 101 highway remaining closed for the indefinite future, Santa Barbara City College has postponed its spring quarter by a week. Both credit and noncredit classes begin January 22.

Westmont has postponed its spring semester by a day, to January 17. It plans to gather students in Valencia and bring them en masse via bus on Tuesday afternoon.

Among those giving back, a group of employees from LogMeIn, an internet connection company in Goleta, met at the Sheriff’s Office Search and Rescue road yard on Saturday and washed vehicles, equipment, and even the office, Sheriff’s spokesperson Kelly Hoover reported.

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