"They are hopeful that we will still recover live victims out there", said Amber Anderson, public information officer for the multi-agency response team.
Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown said residents who had stayed behind or tried to check on damage in neighborhoods where homes were leveled and car-size boulders and trees blocked roads and littered properties were hindering the recovery effort.
They were soon pulled in different directions. One of those people, 62-year-old Delbert Weltzin, was found alive, according to authorities. He brings the total of missing to seven.
Caltrans officials said until Highway 101 is fully reopened, southbound motorists can detour around the closed area by taking Highway 166 east to Interstate 5, then going south to Highway 126 and back west to Highway 101.
Maria Zate, spokeswoman for Cottage Health, said since the mudslides Tuesday, a total of 28 patients have been treated and released or admitted to Cottage hospitals from storm-related injuries. "I hope that's OK", he said.
The Santa Barbara County Fire Department reported that 100 homes were destroyed by deadly storms that caused mudslides. It was the first death discovered since Wednesday.
Karson, reporting for NPR from Pasadena, Calif., said the mudflows above Montecito were so powerful they ripped some homes off their foundations. There are people who are missing family members.
Josie Gower held onto a door frame when a devastating river of mud rushed inside her Montecito home.
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"Some rescues have been gut-wrenching: firefighters pushed through wait-high mud to reach a 14-year-old girl caked in mud from head to toe", Karson reports. She survived. Jack, her 16-year-old brother, is missing.
Two of the victims were killed when their houses were swept away in the mudslides. The mudslides happened Tuesday after heavy rains affected areas recently charred by the historic Thomas Fire.
Patrick Casey, owner of the State & Fig restaurant in downtown Santa Barbara, said he's anxious but expressed confidence that his business, and the community, will snap back.
The U.S. Forest Service announced Friday that the fire that burned 440 square miles (1,140 square kilometers) was fully contained.
The fire erupted December 4 in Ventura County, destroying hundreds of homes before it spread into Santa Barbara County and threatened more communities including Montecito. The hillsides, bereft of trees and vegetation after last summer's Thomas Fire, could not contain the mud that formed after days of heavy rain. More than a dozen people remain unaccounted for, authorities said. Later, Oprah Winfrey also called into the show to give a first hand account from the ground in the area.
The number of confirmed fatalities remains at 17.
It also included James Mitchell, who had celebrated his 89th birthday the day before with his wife, Alice, of more than 50 years. Those killed were as young as 3 and as old as 84.
Santa Barbara fire Captain Gary Pitney said the likelihood is increasing that rescue crews will be finding bodies instead of survivors at this point.