SANTA BARBARA (CBS13) — As new images of harrowing rescues and escapes emerge from across Southern California, the search for the missing continues.
Officials said 17 have been killed and 43 people are still missing, which is why the mandatory evacuation zone was expanded.
On Thursday rescuers with their dogs went through knee-deep mud going from house to house looking for anyone who may be trapped inside or buried beneath the mud.
“The dogs were barking real hard, and within 10 minutes all these emergency personnel started streaming in,” said one neighbor.
At the home in Monticeto crews began to clear the debris, but were gravely disappointed.
“It’s determined that there are some lost souls,” he said.
The flood waters were so powerful it wiped out or moved nearly every home in its path.
But now pouring in instead are the stories of heartbreak.
“Her bedroom is upstairs. If she just would’ve been upstairs,” cried Diane Brewer.
Brewer said one of her closest friends, Josie Gower lived right in the midst of the storm’s path. Brewer believes the cellphone alert could’ve done more harm than good because it went just out 10 minutes before this wall of mud tore through these neighborhoods.
“She would’ve been sleeping. She had no reason to be up at 4 in the morning,” Brewer said.
While some are criticizing officials, they said it was protocol.
“It was activated at the appropriate time when an actual event was occurring, but it’s important to note that there were many, many warnings that were issued in advance,” said Sheriff Bill Brown of Santa Barbara County.
There may have been warnings, but no one expected this.
“We never imagined that it would have this kind of force or this kind of trajectory,” said one neighbor.
For so many others in this community who survived the fires, this storm has taken its toll and some of their friends.
“I’ve lost two people to this horrific catastrophe,” said another neighbor.
Sacramento’s very own Urban Search and Rescue Task Force has members in the Santa Barbara area.
A former Sac Fire Battalion Chief led the team in Washington during massive mudslides in 2014.
He said there’s still hope for survival.
“As the mudslides move through neighborhoods or a structure and it causes a collapse. There are still many, many opportunities and chances for victims to survive inside voids within the structure however it may have been collapsed of been swept away, or whatever shape it’s still in,” said retired Battalion Chief Marc Bentovoja.
The former chief said depending on how big the overall incident is, it’s hard to tell whether the 40 plus victims came from one area or multiple smaller incidents.