Rescue Crews Make Their Way Into Worst-Hit Mudslide Areas

The 2017 Thomas fire that burned in Ventura and Santa Barbara counties left behind vast swaths of charred landscape like this area in Upper Rincon Canyon

Today they'll expand their search for the missing, hoping to find more survivors.

13 people have been confirmed dead as a result of the mudslides.

Downpours sent mud and boulders roaring down hills stripped of vegetation by a enormous wildfire that raged in the state in December and police claim the death toll is certain to rise.

The main line of the Union Pacific Railroad through Montecito is blocked with mudflow and debris which came down hills after a storm that saw 13mm of rain fall in 5 minutes. It sounded like cars being dragged.

"I'm driving down the road 60 miles an hour and the mudslide comes out of nowhere, out of the bushes here, and it comes out 3-4 seconds and hits my auto, pushes me over 3-4 feet, nearly against the railing", one resident said.

Ben Hyatt told reporters, "I woke up my wife and we just did not know what to do".

Santa Barbara County initially ordered 7,000 residents to evacuate and urged 23,000 to do so voluntarily, but only 10 to 15 percent complied, County spokeswoman Amber Anderson said Wednesday.

Emergency cellphone alerts warning residents about the mudslides were not sent out by Santa Barbara County officials until after the flooding had already begun, officials noted Wednesday. (Kenneth Song/Santa Barbara News-Press via Reuters) A search dog looks for victims in damaged homes after a mudslide in Montecito, Calif. on Jan 9. Robert Riskin and a friend searched for his mother.

The baby was buried about 4-feet deep and tangled in roots, he said.

The fast-moving mud worked like concrete, destroying everything in its path Tuesday.

The small creek is now a raging river, overrunning the road with piled-up trees.

More than 5 inches of rain have fallen in Ventura County, according to the National Weather Service in Los Angeles, which said rainfall rates were "unprecedented".

Most of the deaths are believed to have occurred in Montecito, a "wealthy enclave that is home to such celebrities as Oprah Winfrey, Rob Lowe and Ellen DeGeneres", The Guardian says.

The Los Angeles Times noted that rescue teams have been forced to use helicopters because many roads in the area are impassable.

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