TOO LATE

County Emergency Alerts Didn’t Go Out Until After California Mudslides Began

An emergency alert was not sent to people in Santa Barbara County—who were under voluntary and mandatory evacuation orders—until destructive flooding had already hit Montecito, California officials say. The cellphone alert was sent to those registered in the area at about 3:50 a.m. Tuesday, but it is not yet clear how many people actually received it. Santa Barbara County Emergency Manager Jeff Gater said the push alert was sent after conditions began to deteriorate. Many warnings had been circulated by the county on social media and on its website and email systems. But by the time the push alert was sent, mud was pouring quickly downhill with boulders and debris, killing people and destroying homes. Officials have said at least 17 people died and more than 100 homes were ruined by the devastation. Several reports note that many of those who knew they were under mandatory evacuation did not heed the warnings. One man told the Los Angeles Times: “I think all of us have learned our lessons on this one. We were all bad children and ignored the warning.” He added, “Mother Nature came back and dealt us a big blow.”