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Officials Hope to Lift Mudslide Evacuations by Jan. 31

SANTA BARBARA (AP) — Authorities say they hope to start allowing residents to return Jan. 31 to Southern California neighborhoods devastated by mudslides — if they can get most utilities restored by then.

Officials said Sunday that it will be a gradual process getting residents back into homes in Montecito, where 21 people were killed during flash floods Jan. 9. A 17-year-old boy and 2-year-old girl remain missing.

The coastal town’s narrow streets are clogged with bulldozers and utility trucks as crews remove mud and boulders and rebuild drainage pipes and power lines.

Robert Lewin, director of Santa Barbara County’s office of emergency management, said it may be into February before natural gas service is restored.

The U.S. 101 freeway reopened Sunday after a nearly two-week closure caused by the mudslides.