Even wrecked cars have been swept onto beaches.
A member of the Long Beach Search and Rescue team looks for survivors in a auto in Montecito.
"(In) four minutes the water was through our wall and in our house, nearly to the second story", he said.
More than two dozen people were injured in the mudslides, member station KCLU reports. The death toll went up to 18 Friday afternoon, and the number of missing people in Santa Barbara County was lowered to five.
About 300 people remained stuck in Montecito's Romero Canyon neighborhood as helicopter-rescue crews continued their search, the LA Times reported. Residents will not be allowed to return to their homes while the evacuation order is lifted, which may not happen for one or two weeks, officials said.
At least 17 people died and hundreds of homes were destroyed or damaged when massive mudslides crashed through the town early on the morning of January 9, 2018.
Authorities have released the names of 17 people killed by mudslides in California.
Santa Barbara County emergency manager Jeff Gater told the Los Angeles Times that he waited because, "If you cry wolf, people stop listening". "It continues as a search-and-rescue mission".
Sodden hillsides gave way, unleashing a torrent of mud, water, uprooted trees and boulders onto the valley below and causing what the police described as "traumatic injuries" to the victims, who ranged in age from 3 to 89.
Oprah Winfrey, who owns a home in flood-ravaged Montecito, woke up Tuesday to a gas-fueled fire in her neighborhood, mud piled deep in her backyard and a neighbor's house destroyed.
Her 27-year-old sister called relatives every day in the town of Marquelia, near Acapulco on Mexico's Pacific coast, Jennifer Ramos said.
Her firm, Riskin Partners, credited the former ballerina with having closed more than $2 billion in high-end real estate sales since she founded the company in the early 1990s. Her body was found that night, near a highway hit by the slide.
The statement says Riskin was an "exceptional woman" who had exuded strength, grace and elegance.
As authorities looked for victims and residents took stock of the devastation Thursday, some were left to wonder how they survived when neighbours didn't. But within an hour, they said they had made a clerical error and the actual number of missing was eight. Looking for missing persons.
"We are still very much in active search-and-rescue mode", said Chris Elms, a spokesman for state firefighters, adding that the number of fatalities could rise as searches progressed. For days, the county had issued repeated warnings via social media, news media and emails about the potential for mudslides.
Hundreds of searchers are still hunting for survivors of the flash flooding and mudslides near Santa Barbara, California.
Searchers had checked most of the debris zone for victims and some were doubling back to leave no stone unturned Thursday when a crew ended up in the backyard of Bill Asher, who lost his palatial home and a similar one he was restoring next door.