Montecito victims mourned as toll rises to 20

Michael Livingston and Alene Tchekmedyian, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Weather News

Meanwhile, crews continued to clear a two-mile stretch of mud- and debris-strewn U.S. Highway 101, which remained closed indefinitely.

Officials had expected to reopen the highway -- a major artery that carries about 100,000 vehicles through the Central Coast each day -- on Monday.

By Sunday, California Department of Transportation crews had removed 150 yards of debris from northbound lanes and 80 yards of debris from southbound lanes, Caltrans spokesman Jim Shivers said.

But officials said cleaning up one part of the freeway at Olive Mill Road was proving especially difficult because, as one of the lowest points in the area, it had served as a magnet for water and mud.

About 75 people are assigned to the project, which is focused on what Caltrans calls "dewatering" -- using pumps to suck up the mud and rainwater. Once all the mud and debris are removed, the pavement and overpasses will need to be evaluated for structural safety. Then lines will need to be repainted and signs and guardrails reinstalled.

By Monday, "we'll have a better understanding of when the freeway will be open and when people can expect to drive it again," Shivers said.

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

At least 296 buildings were damaged or destroyed by last week's mudslides, officials said Sunday after a partial, preliminary inspection. In that count were 73 homes that were destroyed and 61 that sustained major damage.


Those numbers are expected to rise, since inspectors have completed about 35 percent of assessments of residential and commercial buildings.

On Wednesday, Santa Barbara County will open an assistance center at Calvary Chapel Santa Barbara to offer resources to help the community recover and rebuild.

At Sunday's vigil, Lauren Watson, whose family put up the whiteboard they called the "healing wall," said they planned to take the messages around the area starting Monday -- to the Center Stage Theater, farmers markets and other places downtown. Watson said the wall may even travel to Ventura.

"We want to go to as many places as we can," said his mother, Laura Watson. "It's a beautiful thing to do for the community."

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