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Buried in mud, Montecito faces a daunting cleanup with no end in sight

Matt Hamilton, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Weather News

Workers were still trying to stop the gas leaks, which sometimes required shutting down whole swaths of the town, said Jimmie Cho, a vice president with the utility.

Those who defied evacuation orders remain cloistered in their homes, with food and water supplies dwindling. California Highway Patrol officers stand at checkpoints across the town of about 10,000, reminding those who left that they cannot return.

Barbara Mathews, a physician who owns a gated eight-acre ranch high in the hills, pressed a CHP officer at one checkpoint to allow her to pass. As he waved in firefighters and gas company crews, the officer refused her entreaties.

"It's frustrating not to know how my house is and what to do," said Mathews, who was now living at her late parents' home in Santa Barbara. "I'm going to pray it's all right. I'm worried about my barn, stable and little cottage."

Randy Hill, 59, stayed put through the evacuation, living off a stock of food and 10 gallons of distilled water. But he lost gas service in his townhouse in central Montecito on Saturday as repairs were underway. His propane tank was low.

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"We've hunkered down but are thinking about leaving," said Hill. The car was already packed.

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