Ellen DeGeneres, Jeff Bridges among those impacted by mudslides

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"It's a constantly moving number", said Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown, adding that he expected the death toll to rise.

Mandatory evacuation orders were expanded Thursday evening to Montecito areas below Highway 192/Foothill road, a move Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown said is meant to increase access for rescue and fix crews working in the area.

They were soon pulled in different directions.

David Cantin, 49. The father of Lauren Cantin, the 14-year-old girl whose rescue was one of Tuesday's most dramatic stories. He brings the total of missing to seven.

The Sheriff's Office noted that a separate Montecito resident, also named John Keating, was seriously injured during the slides and is in the hospital.

Before the news conference had ended, Brown returned to the microphone, and with a happy tone said a phone call had just come in about Keating.

Elms said crews are still trying to fight their way through roadways made inaccessible by mudflow in the hopes of locating more people.

At least 18 people have been confirmed dead in mudslides in California, as officials admit the window is closing for other survivors to be found alive.

"There are families missing, there are people who are missing family members", DeGeneres said. Her parents had a dog - Gigi, a small white poodle - who had not been found. Gigi was a rescue dog the couple had taken in a year earlier, and the dog followed them everywhere, Clay Weimer said.

The Benitez brothers are gardeners. Troy said her cottage was probably ok, but at least three of her family's cars were flooded, filled with debris or carried away - and likely some combination of all three. Survived by her husband, two grown children and a grandson.

"I just love this place", she said.

The mudslides were triggered by flash flooding on Tuesday after the first rain hit ground scorched by wildfires in December.

The freeway "will remain closed until we can deal with water flowing from sheared fire hydrants and until we can ascertain the integrity of that roadway", McElroy said.

The mud came in an instant and swept away everything in its path. Trees, homes, vehicles, even people - nothing was spared from the rapidly flowing mud's wrath.

As the largest wildfire in California state history, the month-long Thomas Fire, still burned nearby, heavy rainfall created devastating mudslides in Santa Barbara County, just north of Los Angeles.

The number of missing persons has fluctuated since the disaster hit early Tuesday morning and had been as low as 16 on Wednesday evening.

McElroy said the big push on Saturday was to clean roads in the Santa Barbara and Montecito areas in order to improve vehicular access. "There hasn't been a sound definition of what constitutes a missing person". The number of people killed remains at 17.

More than 1,200 workers have been deployed in the town of about 9,000 residents for the search and cleanup effort.

It also included James Mitchell, who had celebrated his 89th birthday the day before with his wife, Alice, of more than 50 years.

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