California mudslides happened as cellphone alerts went out


By Michael Balsamo | Associated Press

Many Californians in the area hit hardest by this week’s deadly mudslides did not heed warnings for hours and days by emergency officials encouraging them to evacuate their homes — and then received cellphone alerts of imminent slides when the massive streams of debris were already heading toward them or had already hit their neighborhoods.

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Wireless emergency alerts are cellphone messages sent to everyone in a region, similar to the Amber alerts that are sent to cellphone users in specific areas when authorities are trying to find missing children.

The alert sent by Santa Barbara County officials to all those in mandatory and voluntary evacuation areas went out around 3:50 a.m. Tuesday, Rob Lewin, the county’s emergency management director said Thursday. It followed a cellphone alert sent by the National Weather Service, he said.

There has been no outpouring of complaints from people that wireless warnings should have been sent out earlier, and residents of affected areas spoke with The Associated Press said they knew they lived in evacuation areas but chose not to leave.

The first slides tore through Montecito about 3:30 a.m. and continued after the county cellphone alerts went out, destroying or damaging 400 homes and killing at least 17 people. The vast majority of those homes were in areas already designated by authorities as under mandatory or voluntary evacuation orders.

The National Weather Service sent out four wireless emergency alerts in various areas of Santa Barbara County between 2:30 a.m. and noon on Tuesday, spokeswoman Susan Buchanan said.

The warnings for residents to leave had been issued for days before the mudslides through social media, news media and community information emails …read more

Source:: The Mercury News – Nation, World

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