The mudslide areas are under mandatory evacuation orders for at least a week, but the sheriff has cautioned residents to plan to be away for a full two weeks. Authorities said on Thursday night that 43 people were unaccounted for.
Sheriff Bill Brown gave the larger number Thursday but cautioned that many or most of those people may simply have been unreachable to the family and friends who reported they couldn't find them.
Heavy rains on hillsides denuded by last year's record wildfires triggered the mudslides, which also destroyed about 100 homes and injured at least 28 people, officials said.
Those stories of successful rescues are what have kept the groups going, 12 hours a day, trudging through the muck that was riddled with sharp objects and possibly raw sewage.
Rescue efforts continue this weekend, but officials say finding anyone alive now would be a "miracle.""You have to start accepting the reality of that". "You never know exactly what the human body is capable of".
The Thomas Fire, sparked December 4 in Santa Barbara County, scorched the land and burned away vegetation as it quickly grew to become the largest wildfire in modern California history. "Nobody anticipated this", Montecito resident Jennifer Markham told the Associated Press.
On the morning of the storm, Grokenberger watched as 2 to 3 feet of water streamed down the street. "I'm standing right now still in a lot of mud but not as much as yesterday".
The Mitchells were in love with their home in the seaside enclave of Montecito where they moved in 1995, according to their daughter. "I feel like I escaped".
"The torrent arrived suddenly and with a sound some likened to a freight train as water carrying rocks and trees washed away cars and trashed homes. So our missing list is down to five", Brown said.
From here, crews are trying to figure out how they're going to get rid of all the mud that's left hundreds trapped and many more missing.
But in the second image, captured Wednesday after the mudslides swept homes off their foundations and killed more than a dozen people, the impacts of both the wildfire and the flooding can clearly be seen. "Praying for our community again in Santa Barbara".