About 700 rescue workers in helicopters and high-wheeled military vehicles, some with search dogs, were deployed in the hunt for the missing in a disaster zone littered with the remnants of hundreds of damaged or destroyed homes.
Rainfall totals on Tuesday afternoon ranged from 3 to 5 inches in the mountains in Ventura County and 2 to 3 inches in the mountains of Santa Barbara County.
FREDERIC J. BROWN via Getty Images A bulldozer clears mud off the road near a flooded section of US 101 near the San Ysidro exit in Montecito, California, on Tuesday. "We certainly are searching for a miracle right now", Brown said Thursday.
"The missing persons were reported by family and friends, and resided in areas that were heavily damaged during the storm and subsequent mudslides".
They revised the figure down from 48 which they said they initially reported due to a clerical error.
"It goes without saying how incredibly devastating this time is for their loved ones", Brown said. Brown apologized for the inconvenience, but he called the area "a very active rescue and recovery and fix zone right now".
Much of the community remains under mandatory evacuation orders.
Rescuers were busy probing thick muck, swollen creeks and tangled trees with poles in search of seven missing people while dogs sniffed for bodies.
Billy Grokenberger lives in a part of Montecito that was under a voluntary evacuation order.
Curious and concerned citizens who had trudged through the mud Thursday to view the devastation were nowhere to be seen as more firefighters in bright yellow rain gear searched methodically and utility crews in orange safety vests worked with chain saws and jackhammers. "... We didn't take it serious (ly) enough".
"Normally water's kept in the channels, but with debris flows with the water, it dams up the area and forces debris to back flush", he said. "You never really know".
"We just got our electricity so now we're listening to NPR", she said.
Drenching storms that hit the freshly scorched ground triggered the mudslides.
Making matters worse, the area recently witnessed a monster wildfire that torched homes and sent clouds of ash and smoke into communities. They followed heavy rains in Santa Barbara County, where the enormous Thomas fire burned vegetation off the hillsides. "This is an enormous loss for our community".
Montecito may be at slightly less risk now, because this week's flooding already brought down vulnerable material.
"It was like a construction crew came in and wiped it, it was clean", Weimer said in a telephone interview Friday.
What can be done?
There are plenty of lessons to be learned here, and I sure hope that officials in these disaster zones do more that politically posture about global warming instead of trying to develop infrastructure and response plans that will prevent another 17 deaths next fire season. Conte said Riskin, who was the maid of honor at her wedding, took joy in pairing the ideal home with the flawless family and loved cooking, going for long walks and spending movie nights with her family.