Mudslide-stricken California town is all but emptied out

Emergency crew members work on storm damage in Montecito, Calif., Thursday, Jan. 11, 2018. Rescue workers slogged through knee-deep mud and used long poles to probe for bodies Thursday as the search dragged on for victims of the mudslides that slammed this wealthy coastal town. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
In this Jan. 9, 2018 image from video provided by the U.S. Coast Guard, a woman and an infant are hoisted aboard a Coast Guard helicopter as they are rescued from a flood-damaged home in Montecito, Calif. Flash floods on Tuesday swept immense amounts of mud, water and debris down from foothills that were stripped of brush by a recent wildfire. Several people have died as search and rescue operations continue Thursday, Jan. 11. (U.S. Coast Guard via AP)
Alex Broumand of the Montecito Fire Department walks in mud in front of homes damaged from storms in Montecito, Calif., Thursday, Jan. 11, 2018. Rescue workers slogged through knee-deep ooze and used long poles to probe for bodies Thursday as the search dragged on for victims of the mudslides that slammed this wealthy coastal town. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
A woman and a man stand in front of a structure damaged from storms in Montecito, Calif., Thursday, Jan. 11, 2018. Hundreds of rescue workers slogged through knee-deep ooze and used long poles to probe for bodies Thursday as the search dragged on for victims of the mudslides that slammed this wealthy coastal town. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
A car sits in flooded water on Highway 101 in Montecito, Calif., Thursday, Jan. 11, 2018. Rescue workers slogged through knee-deep ooze and used long poles to probe for bodies Thursday as the search dragged on for victims of Tuesday's storm after mudslides slammed this wealthy coastal town. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
Bill Asher walks through mud in his home damaged by storms in Montecito, Calif., Thursday, Jan. 11, 2018. Rescue workers slogged through knee-deep ooze and used long poles to probe for bodies Thursday as the search dragged on for victims of the mudslides that slammed this wealthy coastal town. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
Alex Broumand of the Montecito Fire Department walks in mud in front of homes damaged from storms in Montecito, Calif., Thursday, Jan. 11, 2018. Rescue workers slogged through knee-deep ooze and used long poles to probe for bodies Thursday as the search dragged on for victims of the mudslides that slammed this wealthy coastal town. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
A firefighter cleans debris from an area damaged by storms in Montecito, Calif., Thursday, Jan. 11, 2018. Rescue workers slogged through knee-deep ooze and used long poles to probe for bodies Thursday as the search dragged on for victims of the mudslides that slammed this wealthy coastal town. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
A work crew cleans up an area of Highway 101 that flooded in Montecito, Calif., Friday, Jan. 12, 2018. The number of missing after a California mudslide has fluctuated wildly, due to shifting definitions, the inherent uncertainty that follows a natural disaster, and just plain human error. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
An emergency worker looks down from an overpass toward a flooded area of Highway 101 in Montecito, Calif., Thursday, Jan. 11, 2018. Rescue workers slogged through knee-deep ooze and used long poles to probe for bodies Thursday as the search dragged on for victims of the mudslides that slammed this wealthy coastal town. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
A structure damaged from storms is shown in Montecito, Calif., Thursday, Jan. 11, 2018. Hundreds of rescue workers slogged through knee-deep ooze and used long poles to probe for bodies Thursday as the search dragged on for victims of the mudslides that slammed this wealthy coastal town. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
A work crew cleans up an area of Highway 101 that flooded in Montecito, Calif., Friday, Jan. 12, 2018. The number of missing after a California mudslide has fluctuated wildly, due to shifting definitions, the inherent uncertainty that follows a natural disaster, and just plain human error. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
In this Wednesday, Jan. 10, 2018 still image from video, cars and debris that washed to the coast from storms and flooding are shown on a beach in Montecito, Calif. Rescue workers slogged through knee-deep ooze and used long poles to probe for bodies Thursday as the search dragged on for victims of the mudslides that slammed this wealthy coastal town. (AP Photo/Aron Ranen)
Large rocks and mud are shown in front of a house in Montecito, Calif., Thursday, Jan. 11, 2018. Hundreds of rescue workers slogged through knee-deep ooze and used long poles to probe for bodies Thursday as the search dragged on for victims of the mudslides that slammed this wealthy coastal town. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
The roof of a structure damaged from storms sits over mud and rocks in Montecito, Calif., Thursday, Jan. 11, 2018. Hundreds of rescue workers slogged through knee-deep ooze and used long poles to probe for bodies Thursday as the search dragged on for victims of the mudslides that slammed this wealthy coastal town. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
A Cal Fire search and rescue crew walks through mud near homes damaged by storms in Montecito, Calif., Friday, Jan. 12, 2018. The mudslide, touched off by heavy rain, took many homeowners by surprise early Tuesday, despite warnings issued days in advance that mudslides were possible because recent wildfires had stripped hillsides of vegetation that normally holds soil in place. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
An emergency worker looks down from an overpass toward a flooded area of Highway 101 in Montecito, Calif., Thursday, Jan. 11, 2018. Rescue workers slogged through knee-deep ooze and used long poles to probe for bodies Thursday as the search dragged on for victims of Tuesday's storm after mudslides slammed this wealthy coastal town. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

MONTECITO, Calif. — Most residents of mudslide-ravaged Montecito were under orders to clear out Friday as the search for victims dragged on and crews labored to clean up the muck and repair power, water and gas lines.

Even those who didn't lose their homes in the disaster that left at least 17 people dead were told to leave for up to two weeks so they wouldn't interfere with the rescue and recovery operation in the Southern California town of 9,000.

It was another frustrating turn for those living in Montecito, a town that has been under siege and subject to repeated evacuation orders in recent weeks, first because of a monster wildfire last month, then because of downpours and mudslides.

Cia Monroe said her family of four was lucky their home wasn't ruined and they were all healthy and safe, though her daughter lost one of her best friends.

But Monroe said it was stressful after evacuating three times during the wildfire to be packing up a fourth time and looking at spending up to $3,000 a week for a hotel.

"Financially that's a burden," she said.

A fleet of large trucks and heavy equipment rolled into town Thursday, and the forces on the ground swelled to more than 1,200 workers.

Five people remained missing Friday.

Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown said residents who had stayed behind or tried to check on damage in neighborhoods where homes were leveled and car-size boulders and trees blocked roads and littered properties were hindering the recovery effort.

Brown expanded what was known as the exclusion zone to incorporate most of the town. That meant that even those who had stayed behind would have to leave and those who entered the zone would be subject to arrest.

While the town is best known as a getaway for the rich and famous — the median home price among current listings is more than $4 million — there are also working families living in modest houses and apartments.

With most utilities out of commission or about to be cut off, staying behind was not really an option for many.

Sarah Ettman's home was undamaged, and her section of town still had gas and electricity, even though nearby Romero Creek was choked with cars, trees and rocks.

Because she couldn't re-enter the area if she left, Ettman arranged to have groceries delivered to her at a police checkpoint. But with gas and power expected to be shut off Saturday, she said she would heed the order to leave.

"I mean you're losing all your basic health and sanitation services," she said. "When those go down, you have to leave."

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Melley contributed from Los Angeles. Associated Press writers Amanda Lee Myers, John Antczak, Michael Balsamo and Andrew Dalton in Los Angeles and Aron Ranen in Montecito contributed to this report.

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Follow Weber at https://twitter.com/WeberCM.

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