"There have been many miraculous stories of people lasting many days (following similar disasters) and certainly we are searching for a miracle right now", Brown said.
Downed power lines wrapped around trees at one property, while elsewhere the lines dropped nearly to the ground. At least 25 people were injured and several homes were swept off their foundations by powerful floodwaters.
The storm hit hard between 3 and 6 a.m. Tuesday.
Many others here ignored the same inner voice, finely tuned over weeks, months and in some cases lifetimes of living in a place where fires, floods and earthquakes are always a possibility, especially as the climate changes in a way that emphasizes the extremes.
From above, thrashed areas of town appeared awash in a sea of mud, with only the tallest trees standing and some homes buried up to their roofs.
Just days after cleaning the last of the ash from the Thomas fire out of their canyon property near Carpinteria, the couple were again packing a suitcase and grabbing their dog for what is turning out to be another extended stay away from home.
"It was always a full life with Josie".
"She was an icon among other Realtors", said Mark Lomas, an agent with Sotheby's International Realty.
Roy Rohter, 84, founder of the St. Augustine Academy Roman Catholic school, died when the slide swept him from his home in Montecito, according to school officials and local news media. Theresa was rescued and hospitalized in stable condition.
Authorities have not released the names of the victims, but some of their relatives have confirmed their identities.
"Obviously, a lot depends on Mother Nature, on the magnitude of the rainfall, the magnitude of the mudslides and so forth", the sheriff told reporters on Tuesday.
Rebecca Riskin, the founding partner of Montecito real estate company Riskin Partners, is also missing, according to her relative, Lynne Creighton. She returned to her hometown of Los Angeles in 1979, where she began selling high-end real estate on the city's west side.
"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. Hundreds of residents were under mandatory evacuation orders.
In some places mud was waist-deep, officials said.
Scores of sheriff deputies and other first responders raced door-to-door to aid evacuees. He noted that some people had been rescued Thursday.
The rain hit fast Tuesday, landing on hillsides stripped of their vegetation by the massive blaze that started last month.
The flooding comes just weeks after the Thomas fire burned almost 282,000 acres in Santa Barbara and Ventura counties, stripping hillsides of vegetation needed to stem water runoff during rainstorms.
Parts of U.S. Highway 101 were shut down and could remain closed until Monday, officials said.
Twenty people were hospitalized and four were described as "severely critical" by Dr. Brett Wilson of Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital.
Homeowners with quake insurance may be covered for damage from the mudslide, but many people in the area may not have this kind of insurance, which can be expensive, according to McLaughlin. In January 2005, a landslide struck La Conchita in Ventura County, killing 10 people.
Santa Barbara County authorities offered wildly fluctuating numbers of the missing throughout the day.
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