Hope fades for mud survivors

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Officials expanded mandatory evacuation zones Thursday because pedestrians and traffic were hindering rescue and fix operations. Only an estimated 10 to 15 percent of residents fled when ordered, and much of the damage occurred where evacuations were voluntary. All warnings and orders for neighboring Summerland and Carpinteria were lifted. "There's nearly always more" that could come down, Jibson said.

The Office of Emergency Management said it's looking at ways to improve the alert system. "If you cry wolf, people stop listening".

"Disasters are very dynamic in danger".

"We ask that you keep this devastated family in your thoughts and prayers", Brown said. "Just because an area can be safe at 1 o'clock in the afternoon doesn't mean it is going to be safe at 3 p.m".

It continued to smolder before a drenching Pacific storm hit bare hills and mountains this week, unleashing debris-laden flash floods that swept away homes and killed at least 17 people. Almost every home on their block was completely destroyed and others were lifted and tossed from their foundation.

U.S. Highway 101, a major north-south artery that carries 100,000 vehicles through the Central Coast each day, was initially expected to open Monday, but officials said cleaning up one part of the freeway was proving more hard than imagined. His birthday was Monday. The couple of more than five decades planned to stay at home because of the rain and have a quiet dinner.

Along Hot Springs Road, where at least two homes were carried off their foundations, bulldozers cleared muck and debris from areas already searched.

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Brown urged anyone in mandatory evacuation areas to leave immediately. Mudflows traveled through neighborhoods near where Oprah Winfrey and Ellen DeGeneres have homes."There are 43 people now who may be considered as missing", Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown told reporters at a Thursday afternoon press conference.

The destruction covered 30 square miles, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection said.

Joseph Bleckel, 87, was found in his home on Friday, the sheriff's office said.

The evacuations are among a host of issues for the town that has been subjected to repeated evacuation orders in recent weeks, beginning with those enacted because of the Thomas Fire in December.

Santa Barbara fire Captain Gary Pitney said the likelihood is increasing that rescue crews will be finding bodies instead of survivors at this point.

There are plenty of lessons to be learned here, and I sure hope that officials in these disaster zones do more that politically posture about global warming instead of trying to develop infrastructure and response plans that will prevent another 17 deaths next fire season. This time, a voluntary evacuation order was issued for their area and the family discussed leaving but made a decision to ride it out.

"Had we not gone over there, I don't think that kid would have [survived]", he added. "I tried to get out every single way and there was no way out".

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