Amtrak accommodates Santa Barbara travelers amid mudslide cleanup

MONTECITO, Calif. (KABC) -- As Montecito mud cleanup continues on Tuesday, Amtrak added additional cars to its trains to accommodate new passengers in need.

Seats on Amtrak's Pacific Surfliner is on high demand this week because traveling by train is the only way for the general public to cross from Ventura into Santa Barbara County following last Tuesday's mudslides.

"We didn't realize the magnitude of the disaster at that point. We thought it was much smaller in scope," said Liz Sherman of Camarillo.

It is the first time Sherman and her husband have taken the train north. They, along with other commuters, think this option is far better than driving a few hours out of their way up Interstate 5.

The 101 Freeway through Montecito still resembles a swamp land. Caltrans officials say it will remain closed for repairs for at least another week, as clean-up efforts continue.

To make matters worse, more storms are expected later this week for the ongoing closure, which is between Carpinteria and Santa Barbara.

Things like surfboards and even cars are still stranded in the mud.

The clean-up crews have to factor in the forecasted light rain, as well as the harsh reality of what they may uncover: human remains of the missing.

MORE: Candlelight vigil honors memory of Montecito mudslide victims
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Hundreds of people gathered by candlelight in Santa Barbara to mourn the loss of life suffered in the mudslides that overwhelmed Montecito.

There are three people who remain unaccounted for: Lydia Sutthithepa, 2; John "Jack" Cantin, 17; and Faviola Benitez Calderon, 28.

Twenty people were killed and more than 500 homes were damaged or destroyed when hills above town gave way amid a downpour last Tuesday, sending torrents of liquid mud and debris hurtling toward the ocean.

Authorities have transitioned from search-and-rescue to a search-and-recovery phase.

Amtrak employees say seats on the Pacific Surfliner are few and far between, as the train travels further north into Carpinteria, which is the last stop before passing through Montecito and into Santa Barbara.

The Shermans say their travel inconvenience is so minor compared to what the victims are dealing with.

"Their family members, their pets, their home - I can't even image the grief that they're feeling," Sherman added.

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