It's hard to wrap your brain around the devastation that has befallen Santa Barbara County in California in the wake of the one-two punch of massive wildfires followed by rainfall that triggered widespread mudslides. Rescuers are still combing through the wreckage for survivors two days later.
Firefighters from Burbank, in neighboring Los Angeles County, shared footage with the CBS television affiliate in Sacramento Thursday showing what appears to be a gray Toyota Prius navigating — or simply being carried — downhill amid a river of muddy water, rocks and debris.
There were no details provided, and it's hard to confirm from the brief clip, but it's highly possible someone was behind the wheel. The car is clearly running, with the headlights on and wipers engaged, and was able to get around the curve in the hill, even as a fresh wave of mud and water engulfed it. We can only hope the driver made it to safety.
The search for survivors mudslide that has killed at least 17 people moved into its third day on Friday, with some 700 rescue workers expecting to find more dead victims.
Triggered by heavy rains, the massive slide struck before dawn on Tuesday, when a wall of mud and debris cascaded down hillsides that were denuded last month by wildfires, including the Thomas Fire, the largest blaze in the state's history.
"Realistically we suspect we are going to have the discovery of more people killed in this incident," Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown said at a Thursday news briefing, adding that he was hoping to find "miracle" survivors.
Brown said 43 people remain missing, although some may just be out of communication.
The Associated Press reports 100 homes have been destroyed and 446 others were damaged in coastal Montecito, a wealthy enclave northwest of Los Angeles.
The region's natural beauty and easy access to Los Angeles to the southeast have long attracted the rich and powerful, including television personality Oprah Winfrey, former tennis star Jimmy Connors, talk-show host Ellen DeGeneres and actor Jeff Bridges.
"Our home has been severely damaged, but we are safe, and so thankful for that and for the first responders who are working tirelessly to save people," Bridges wrote on Twitter. "We are heartbroken over the loss of lives in our community."