A California community that’s home to numerous celebrities — including Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, Oprah Winfrey, and Ellen DeGeneres — was placed under an evacuation order Monday as a powerful storm battered the region.
A local fire protection district in Santa Barbara County called for the evacuation of Montecito, as the affluent seaside community faces flooding and mudslides in the latest of a series of storms to hit the Golden State.
In neighboring San Luis Obispo County, a 5-year-old boy was swept away by the raging floodwaters. The youngster had been in a car with his mother, who was rescued by bystanders.
The search for the missing boy was called off Monday afternoon.
The evacuation order in Montecito comes exactly five years after a deadly mudslide killed 23 people and destroyed more than 100 homes in the wealthy community. The Montecito fire district said the order was in place “due to threats of life safety caused by the ongoing storm.”
DeGeneres, in a video she tweeted out Monday, said she was only required to shelter-in-place because she is on higher ground. She showed raging floodwaters going down a creek that she says never flows.
“We need to be nicer to Mother Nature because Mother Nature’s not happy with us,” the comedian and TV host said. “Let’s all do our part. Stay safe everybody.”
Montecito is home to millionaires and billionaires with no shortage of celebrities boasting homes in the area.
Prince Harry and wife Meghan Markle relocated to Montecito in 2020 after leaving the UK. The Duke of Sussex has been in the news lately for his new memoir that is expected to hit bookstores Tuesday.
The National Weather Service estimated at least eight inches of rain have fallen so far with several more inches expected as the area faces heavy downpours.
One homeowner said she was trapped with an overflowing creek on one side and a mudslide on the other.
“As of two hours ago, I am trapped,” Jamie McLead, 60 said. “I can’t get off the mountain.”
The owner of Santa Barbara Bird Sanctuary said one of her workers dropped off food at her home.
The number of deaths tied to the bruising storms have increased from 12 to 14, officials said Monday. The new deaths were due to falling trees that killed two people.
The boy who was swept away by flooding has not been declared dead, an official said, but the search for him stopped around 3 p.m. He and his mother were traveling in a white truck around 8 a.m. when it became stuck in the rising water, said Tom Swanson, the assistant chief of the Cal Fire/San Luis Obispo County Fire Department.
The mother was pulled to safety, but the boy, still in the vehicle, was carried away downstream, Swanson said. A firefighter found one of the boy’s shoes, but the child remained missing.
The search was stopped because the water levels posed too much of a risk for divers, according to officials.
There was no evacuation order at the time of the incident.
In other parts of the region, about 32,000 residents received evacuation orders in Santa Cruz County. Many highways and roads, including northbound lanes of US 101, an important coastal route, were closed.
Several Northern California schools were closed with tens of thousands still without power in Sacramento.
President Biden issued an emergency declaration Monday to help out the storm response and ensuing relief for more than a dozen counties.
With Post wires