"We realise that this is going to be a long and hard journey for all of us and our community", Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown told reporters at a late afternoon news conference. Six homes near Montecito were "wiped away from their foundations" by mudflow and debris, according to a Santa Barbara County fire spokesman.
"Realistically we suspect we are going to have the discovery of more people killed in this incident", Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown said at a Thursday news briefing, adding that he was hoping to find "miracle" survivors.
The upmarket neighbourhood includes homes owned by celebrities such as actor Rob Lowe, chat show host Ellen DeGeneres and media mogul Oprah Winfrey.
"The house in the back is gone", she said.
Just weeks after raging wildfires forced them to leave their homes, residents of the area to the east of Santa Barbara were being urged to leave after a deluge of mud, ash and boulders were unleashed by a ferocious storm.
The area is still facing a significant threat because more rain could spur new landslides, Rengers says.
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Hundreds of searchers spent Thursday morning searching for bodies in the mud, with another 17 people still reported missing.
"I work in L.A. but I consider Montecito my home", she said.
Aerial view of Montecito, Calif., where mud and debris covers roads, homes and everything in it's path following heavy rains, January 9, 2018.
DeGeneres detailed the mandatory evacuations that she and wife Portia de Rossi undertook during both the fires and the mudslides, noting that families of all backgrounds were, and continue to be, affected.
Television mogul Oprah Winfrey's home survived the rainstorm and ensuring mudslides. "She had been trapped for hours in a pile of wood that was once her house".
Some homes and businesses in the area still have no power and water service. Several roads are closed, including the major Highway 101.
The first significant rain Santa Barbara County saw after the Thomas fire left hillsides without brush triggered mudslides and other debris flow early Tuesday that ran a path of destruction through the neighborhood.
One such resident, Marco Farrell, 45, called the slide more frightening than the "biggest, scariest, horrifying monster you've ever dreamed of".