Southern California Public Radio reported that "only an estimated 10 to 15 percent of people in a mandatory evacuation area of Santa Barbara County heeded the warning", though the disaster primarily struck an area that was not under mandatory evacuation. Hundreds of rescue workers slogged through knee-deep ooze and used long poles to probe for bodies Thursday as the search dragged on for victims of the mudslides that slammed this wealthy coastal town.
Dozens of stranded residents have been rescued by helicopter in areas of Santa Barbara and Ventura counties - some from their vehicles and others from rooftops.
Local officials, using borrowed helicopters from the US Coast Guard, were working to airlift them out, Brown said.
Brown did say that of the 17 people he announced were missing Wednesday, some were identified as among the dead and were crossed off the list.
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In Santa Barbara County, a total of 100 homes were destroyed and 300 homes damaged by the mudslides, Eliason said, adding that eight commercial properties were also destroyed and 20 damaged.
Winfrey's home survived the storm and mudslides.
Winfrey, fresh from sparking rumours of a United States presidential run, said on Instagram she was "praying for our community again in Santa Barbara".
She appeared alert and was communicating with firefighters as she was transported to a hospital.
Wednesday's efforts focused on aerial evacuations of those trapped in Romero Canyon and on clearing roadways to enable rescuers to reach homes.
"I thought I was dead for a minute there", the dazed girl could be heard saying before she was taken away on a stretcher on a video posted by KNBC-TV. With the wildfires leaving behind a waxy layer of debris that made it hard for water to infiltrate the ground, the downpour caused flash floods in the fire-scarred Santa Ynez Mountains. The mud was reported to be up to 5 feet deep in places. He was not sure who it was.