Mudslides damaged historic hotels and the homes of celebrities including Oprah Winfrey, who relish the area sandwiched between the ocean and the sprawling Los Padres National Forest, for its natural beauty and proximity to sprawling Los Angeles. At one point Thursday, only seven people were reported missing, but by late Thursday afternoon, the number had risen to 43.
Heavy rains sent rivers of mud tumbling down hillsides Tuesday, demolishing homes in the affluent seaside community of Montecito weeks after a massive fire charred the area last month.
The grim discovery came around noon on a day in which searchers were going through damaged and destroyed homes, sometimes for a second time. He said residents can shelter in place in their homes - adding that anyone moving about the area faces possible arrest.
Mud and water still fill a street near Montecito Calif
Search and rescue efforts have been slow as crews have to navigate through waist-deep mud, fallen trees, boulders and other debris.
Officials in Santa Barbara County urged residents to seek shelter or move to higher ground and to "stay indoors and stay off the roads".
On a Facetime call from outside her home, Winfrey described the scene as she waded through a sea of mud.
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DeGeneres became emotional when talking about the community in which she lives with wife Portia De Rossi.
"The house being gone, it's just a house, it's just some clothes and a house", Sam Johnson told Reuters.
The fire erupted December 4 in Ventura County, destroying hundreds of homes before it spread into Santa Barbara County and threatened more communities including Montecito.
U.S. Highway 101, a crucial link between Ventura and Santa Barbara, was so overwhelmed by mud and debris that authorities announced it will remain closed until at least Monday.
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He said it's likely they'll find more people amid that destruction.
Some homes and businesses in the area still have no power and water service.
As their names and those of 14 other victims were released Thursday, crews kept digging through the muck and rubble looking for more people. The rain really started coming down around 3 a.m., he said, and then the sky lit up from a "huge fireball" up the mountain, he said.
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