Ellen Degeneres: Documents Montecito’s Mandatory Evacuation: “Mother Nature Is Not Happy With Us”

On the fifth anniversary of a mudslide that claimed 23 lives and hundreds of homes, severe rainfall has Montecito under threat again.

Montecito — the celebrity-loved enclave in central California which Oprah Winfrey, Jane Lynch, Rob Lowe and the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, among others call home — is officially under mandatory evacuation. This ruling comes after a fruitless search for a five-year-old boy who was swept away by floodwaters early Monday morning; the search was called off around 3 p.m. local time.

Five years ago, on Jan. 9, 2018, Montecito was ravaged by mudslides caused by flash flooding; in the middle of the night, the town got rainfall in five minutes, and the storm continued throughout the day, leaving lives claimed, homes flattened, gas mains popped, and power lines down. At the time, these mudslides were made more severe by the Thomas Fire that started in the area on Dec. 4, 2017 — the charred Santa Ynez Mountains were made more vulnerable to destruction because the earth wasn’t prepared to absorb water well.

Ellen Degeneres, who lives in the area (located between the Santa Ynez Mountains and the Pacific Ocean), posted a video to her Instagram account showing the severity of a nearby creek’s rising water levels and the current of the steam.

“This is the 5-year anniversary from the fire and mudslides that killed so many people — people lost their homes, their lives,” she says in the video. “This is crazy, on the 5-year anniversary, we’re having unprecedented rain. This stream next to our house never flows, ever. It’s probably about 9 feet up … we need to be nicer to mother nature, because mother nature is not happy with us … stay safe everybody.”

DeGeneres shared in the caption that her home is on “higher ground,” allowing her to shelter in place.

Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown said the decision to evacuate was “based on the continuing high rate of rainfall with no indication that that is going to change before nightfall.”

This evacuation order displaces nearly 10,000 residents — the entire town of Montecito plus nearby canyon neighborhoods. The National Weather Service reported that at least 8 inches of rain fell over 12 hours, with several more inches predicted as the storm marches on.