Evacuation orders, warnings lifted for parts of southern Santa Barbara County

Rescue crews have expanded their search for five missing people as the death toll rose to 18 from Southern California mudslides that damaged hundreds of buildings and highways.

"Auto and pedestrian traffic in the exclusionary zone has reached a point that it is seriously impacting the ability of search and rescue, public works, other first responders and repair crews to clear roadways and to engage in search and rescue, repair and damage-assessment operations", he said.

Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown said residents who had stayed behind or tried to check on damage in neighborhoods where homes were leveled and car-size boulders and trees blocked roads and littered properties were hindering the recovery effort. "It's crusty on top but soft underneath, so we're having to be very careful".

Officials warned the number of fatalities could increase as rescuers continued searching homes.

About 1,250 emergency workers are now fighting against the clock to find about 43 people that were not accounted for on Thursday night.

The youngest, 3-year-old Kailly Benitez, was one of four children killed. Talk show host Ellen DeGeneres, a Montecito resident ordered to evacuate before the mudslides began, discussed the tragedy Thursday on The Ellen DeGeneres Show. The residents probably figured they were far enough away from where the Thomas fire recently burned and not in danger of mudslides or flash floods. And it made me so proud to live there.

Tanker trucks sucked muddy water from flooded sections of U.S. 101, the only direct major artery between Los Angeles and the Santa Barbara region. They slogged through ooze and poked long holes into the mud on Wednesday as they searched for victims a day after the massive debris flow passed through.

In an Instagram video, Winfrey showed the mud that had engulfed her property and pointed to an unnamed neighbor's property - likely Bridges, according to TMZ - which she said was "devastated". "They're finding people and bodies and I mean, you hear the word mudslide and you have no idea the impact that it has".

Joseph Bleckel, 87, also died, in his Montecito home, the sheriff's office reported early Saturday. "It's as devastating as can be", she added.

Heavy rains trigged the mudslides in an area ravaged a month before by wildfires. At the bottom of a steep slope, Decker strained at his leash until Brainard released him to search.

Montecito is best known as a getaway for the rich and famous - the median home price among current listings is more than 4 million dollars (£2.9m) - although there are also working families living in modest houses and apartments.

Another person who had been on the list of missing, 62-year-old Delbert Weltzin, was found alive and well, Brown said without elaborating. They finally eroded into deadly mudslides that struck the community unawares.

Our hearts go out to all those in Montecito.

But as with the wine country fires, the sheer speed of the cataclysm appears to have overwhelmed planning that might have been adequate in past disasters.

  • Leon Brazil