MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:
We're going to check in now on the search and rescue operations in Southern California after deadly mudslides this week. At least 18 people have died. Many are still missing. And parts of Santa Barbara County are still unreachable. Sharon McNary of member station KPCC has this report.
SHARON MCNARY, BYLINE: A couple of soldiers from the 114th composite transportation company parked their Humvee in a place they hope it won't get stuck.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: I don't want to stop in the mud, though.
MCNARY: They slog through the mud, squeeze through a small opening in a heavy wooden gate blocked by more mud and make their way to the door. National Guard soldiers from their Bakersfield, Ca., company pulled some 1,800 people out of the mud disaster zone one mudbound family at a time. I'm right behind them.
Yeah, this is really deep, comes up to my legs. And it's just grabbing every bit of my legs.
An older woman is the first to make the slow walk out to the truck. One soldier gets in front. She puts her hands on his shoulders. Another soldier follows behind, helping her lift each leg for the step forward. The family's in the tarp-covered bed of the Humvee along with a large fluffy dog.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: The worst part was on Tuesday, when folks came over the wall of our compound. There's no better way to put it - looters, would-be looters.
MCNARY: The owner asked that his name and location not be disclosed because he fears further break-ins. There's gratitude for the soldiers.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: Thankfully, because of these guys, I get to sleep tonight.
MCNARY: But also some regret.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: I don't know why I didn't prepare more. And so here's a message for other folks out there that procrastinate - just don't. It's a lot healthier not to.
MCNARY: On the upside, with the power out, they were able to use his Tesla in the unflooded garage to charge their phones. For NPR News, I'm Sharon McNary in Montecito. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.