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As Rain Creates Dent in Drought, Threat of Mudslides Returns

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A debris flow hit La Canada Flintridge in 2010. Mud and debris came rushing through an entire house on Manistee Drive. (Credit: Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

Through five years of severe drought, El Capitan Canyon above the Pacific Ocean near Goleta endured bone-dry conditions that at times seemed like they would never end.

Then, on Friday, the skies opened up. Nearly 2 inches of rain dropped in a single hour in the Santa Ynez Mountains.

So a creek that had once disappeared came roaring alive, full of mud, brush and broken trees pouring from the burned slopes of the Sherpa fire in the summer.

Five cabins were lifted off their foundations and swept down the creek. The muddy torrent claimed 22 vehicles. One of the cabin’s remains were found south of the 101 Freeway. Nearly two dozen people had to be rescued, including one trapped in a car, said Santa Barbara County fire Capt. Dave Zaniboni. The remains of five smashed vehicles floated all the way down to the beach.

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