6 Dead as Mudslides, Flooding Force Thousands to Flee in Montecito, California

Six people are dead in Southern California after pouring rains triggered mudslides that swept homes from their foundations and blocked roads, forcing helicopter evacuations, officials said.

The bodies were found in mud and debris during rescue operations Tuesday in Montecito, California, 100 miles northwest of Los Angeles, Santa Barbara County Fire Department Captain Dave Zaniboni said.

The floods came after devastating wildfires robbed the surrounding land of vegetation, making mudslides inevitable in heavy rains.

Mudflows swept three homes from their foundations and left at least eight injured in Montecito, officials said.

Critical coastal highway US 101 was shut down for a 30-mile stretch from Ventura to Santa Barbara as work crews tried to clear heavy debris.

The wealthy enclave of roughly 9,000 residents is home to numerous celebrities, including Oprah Winfrey, Rob Lowe and Ellen DeGeneres.

DeGeneres tweeted an overhead photo of the 101 that looks more like a river.

"This is not a river. This is the 101 freeway in my neighborhood right now. Montecito needs your love and support," the talk show host wrote.

Lowe, too, shared that his neighborhood needs help. "Praying for all our friends and neighbors. Very bad situation in Montecito," he wrote on Twitter.

On Tuesday morning, firefighters helped multiple residents escape the area, including a 14-year-old girl who was trapped for hours inside of a destroyed home.

Power in the area has also been cut, according to ABC News.

More rescues were expected and evacuations are rising, officials said.

"We're performing multiple rescues. There will be more," Zaniboni said, adding that some of those brought to safety were buried in mud.

The National Weather Service says that the storm will move inland with the heavy rain letting up around dinnertime.

Search crews used dogs to seek out the missing and injured amid scenes of destruction where homes once stood. Swift-water rescue crews and helicopters rushed to the aid of residents trapped amid the destruction.

Rainfall totals Tuesday morning and early afternoon range from 2 to 4 inches in Ventura, Los Angeles and Santa Barbara counties.

The storm system moves into the Great Plains on Wednesday and Thursday with winter storm watches and warnings already issued from Colorado to Wisconsin.

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Locally, 6 to 12 inches are possible and this could be the biggest snowstorm of the season for places like the Twin Cities.

South of the storm, mild air could bring thunderstorms from Memphis to St. Louis.