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Death toll in Montecito mudslide rises to 19, while 101 Freeway will remain closed indefinitely

Louis Sahagun and Harriet Ryan, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Weather News

In addition to the 101, many local roads are blocked. Santa Barbara City Fire Chief Pat McElroy said the big push on Saturday was to clean roads in the Santa Barbara and Montecito areas in order to improve vehicular access.

"As it stands, we're still having to go in on foot in many areas," he said.

State Route 192, which cuts across the foothills, is also unsafe in places, and officials are trying to establish an alternative route as soon as possible.

With the 101 closed, hundreds of people have taken to traveling the coast by boat. Two sightseeing companies, Island Packers in Ventura and Condor Express in Santa Barbara, have worked together to turn their vessels into a ferry service between the cities.

Tickets on the Condor Express, a 75-foot catamaran that normally takes tourists whale watching, were in high demand last week with many trips packed with the maximum 127 passengers, said assistant manager Katie Fitts.

The 90-minute trip over the water was significantly shorter than the more than four-hour detour on the 5 Freeway, and ferry passengers included firefighters, city workers and medical personnel from Cottage Hospital, she said.

"There are people trying to get to their families that have been struck by this tragedy and people trying to get to work ... surgeons and nurses," Fitts said.

Ticket sales fell off Saturday after Amtrak restarted Surfliner and Coast Starlight service between Santa Barbara and Oxnard. The train trip between Ventura to Santa Barbara normally takes about 45 minutes. Trains were delayed two hours Saturday.

A spokeswoman said the delay "was due to adding capacity to accommodate an increase of customers."

Meanwhile, business owners in Solvang -- a favorite tourist stop of mostly western European-style hotels, bakeries and ranches just north of Santa Barbara -- were in a near panic on Saturday as they watched sales revenues shrink to less than half of normal. For them, closing Interstate 101 seemed the equivalent of splitting the state in half.

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