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Families frantically search for loved ones missing in Montecito mudslide

Brittny Mejia And Melissa Etehad, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Weather News

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. -- As the death toll rose to 15 in the Montecito mudslide disaster, family members continue to frantically look for loved ones who might still be missing.

At the evacuation center at Santa Barbara City College, someone had put up a white posterboard, with "message board" scrawled in black.

Below, in blue, was scrawled "Augie & Karen Johnson," with a question mark in front of their names. Below and next to it were other names, also with question marks, as people searched for loved ones.

One name at the top had been crossed out, with "He is OK" scrawled next to it. People left phone numbers on yellow sticky notes, asking others to please call and sometimes telling them they loved them.

When a woman came in trying to find her mother, a volunteer checked the message board.

"She wouldn't have been able to leave a note," the woman said, before heading off to scour the shelter for her.

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Jessica Piffero, regional director of communications for the Red Cross, said she's seen message boards go up before. "I think the missing people and the fatalities are definitely weighing heavy on this community right now. We've already been through so much with the fire. Now for this to have hit ... . it's taking an emotional toll for sure."

Issac Cervantes painstakingly checked each sticky note and piece of paper attached to the message board, hoping to hear about someone he knows who lives in Montecito.

Cervantes met Larry about three years ago while the two worked together at UCSB. Larry was a mechanic, who has since retired.

"From what I heard, where he lived is like totally gone now," Cervantes said. "He doesn't really have anybody that talks to him. He's shut off from everybody ... I just wanted to see if he was here."

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