At least 17 people have died as a result of the mudslides, which has destroyed houses and caused substantial damage in Santa Barbara and Ventura counties. Areas that have been charred by wildfires pose a risk of flash flooding and mudslides as a heavy band of rain moves over Santa Barbara County. "While we hope it will not, we expect this number to increase as we continue to look for people who are missing and unaccounted for", Santa Barbara Sheriff Bill Brown said on Tuesday.
With many roads blocked, rescue crews used helicopters to pluck people from their rooftops.
Among those taken to safety was a 14-year-old girl who had been trapped for hours in the ruins of her home. As of January 10, 13 people were killed and more than 160 others were injured.
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Most of the devastation has occurred in and around Montecito, a wealthy enclave of about 9,000 people northwest of Los Angeles that is home to such celebrities as Winfrey, Rob Lowe and Ellen DeGeneres.
"We're finding people continuously", said Yaneris Muniz, spokeswoman for the Santa Barbara County Joint Information Centre.
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The mudslide areas are under mandatory evacuation orders for at least a week, but the sheriff has cautioned residents to plan to be away for a full two weeks.
A group of up to 300 people are reportedly trapped in Romero Canyon, east of Santa Barbara.
Thomas Tighe said he stepped outside his Montecito home in the middle of the night after hearing the "deep rumblling" sound of boulders moving as mud levels rose. Videos she posted to Instagram showed her attempting to march through knee-deep mud. The area received several inches of heavy rain that could not be absorbed by recently burned areas, which has produced a lethal landscape. The widespread wildfires that burned through the region destroyed vegetation and left the soil scorched.
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Tragically, the death toll is expected to rise as authorities work to access and clear the areas buried beneath debris and waist-deep mud.