17 dead, dozens may be missing from California mudslides

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A massive winter storm drenched parts of Southern California this week, leading to deadly mudslides.

On a postcard-perfect afternoon, the Santa Barbara Shellfish Company would normally be bustling with lunchtime diners downing fried calamari and lobster tacos, especially on the cusp of a holiday weekend.

Cal Fire puts the affected area at 30 square miles. Seventeen people dead, 28 injured, eight missing. At least 65 homes have been destroyed, and hundreds damaged.

"I know it sounds like it's a constantly moving number", Brown said. "Literally. Ran for my life".

They came away shaken after seeing pictures of the flooded Highway 101 and the devastation to downtown Montecito, where they had a veterinary clinic for many years.

Fourteen-year-old Lauren Cantin became the face of survival when rescuers pulled the dazed, mud-covered girl from her flattened home in Montecito earlier this week, but family friends who launched a GoFundMe page reported her father and older brother were still missing.

Longtime friend Doug Scott told ABC News that Gower and another friend were on the second floor of her home but ventured downstairs when they heard rumbling.

In a statement to KSBY-6 News, Cottage Health said, "We're very saddened by the death of Dr. Mark Montgomery, who was a member of the Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital Medical Staff. Dr. Montgomery was a respected orthopedic surgeon who specialized in hand surgery".

[I] ntense wildfires transform rich soil into a dense, water-repellent surface. "He has done so much for so many people and pro-life and Catholic education causes". Although search efforts are underway, Sheriff's detectives are actively working on locating persons reported to the Emergency Operations Center and Santa Barbara County Public Safety Dispatch Center.

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Another contributing factor is that alerts about potential mudslides did not go out until the flows began.

Officials said secondary searches of damaged structures were under way.

Winfrey wasn't under a mandatory evacuation order because her house is higher up on a hill, but she has been using social media to show just how bad the scenes were in Montecito this week. "We have to get this debris cleared, and we have to hurry".

People in Montecito had counted themselves lucky last month after the biggest wildfire in California history spared the town.

Finally, many Montecito residents ignored the initial warnings.

Mark Schniepp, director of the California Economic Forecast, said the area is being shaken by a three-pronged problem: Tourists aren't coming in their usual numbers, residents have been forced to move out and thousands of workers can't get to their jobs.

"We're still in rescue mode and we still hope to find someone alive, although the chances of that are becoming slim", said Justin Cooper, a spokesperson for the multi-agency response team.

With most utilities out of commission or about to be cut off, staying behind was not really an option for many. Some assumed the threat was overblown just weeks after the fire triggered similar calls to evacuate.