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Moments of terror in Thomas fire zone as powerful rains send the earth moving

Michael Livingston and Joseph Serna, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Weather News

MONTECITO, Calif. -- Montecito resident Dominic Shiach thought the worst was over when the massive Thomas fire finally stopped threatening his town last month.

But Monday night and early Tuesday morning, the rains began to pound. Within hours, the community was inundated with mudslides, leaving at least five dead and some trapped among damaged homes.

Officials described intense deluges of rain overnight that began moving the fire-scarred earth without warning, causing terrifying moments for residents who could not get out in time.

"I woke up ready this morning to laugh and scoff at all the gloom and doom predictions," said Shiach, 50. "It's actually way worse than I thought it was going to be."

Shiach wore a navy raincoat as he walked Archie, his 3-year-old West Highland terrier, down Sycamore Canyon Road on Tuesday morning.

For now, Shiach has remained in the neighborhood. He and his family evacuated for 10 days because of the Thomas fire.

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"It's a complete surprise," Shiach said about the threat of more devastation from flooding. "We've got food, and I'm sure the roads will be open in a day or so."

Hours before the heaviest deluge hit the area, officials had evacuated foothill communities filled with 7,000 residents, said Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Office spokeswoman Kelly Hoover.

But not everyone heeded that call.

About 3 a.m., the storm became ferocious.

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