At least 17 dead as teams dig through mudslide debris in California

Rescue workers enter properties to look for missing persons after a mudslide in Montecito California

Death toll from California mudslides rises to 19

Almost 3,400 residents in Montecito are without water or power and over 300 are trapped in their homes as first responders scrambled to conduct rescue work in the wake of the devastating flash floods and deadly mudslides which left at least 15 dead, 25 injured and dozens missing, said County spokeswoman Yaneris Muniz.

As rescuers searched Wednesday for more than a dozen people missing after mudslides swept away homes in Montecito, a San Diego-based task force and a strike team have been deployed to the area to assist with the efforts.

They happened when water that would have otherwise been absorbed or at least slowed by vegetation instead instantly ran down creeks and other drainage areas, picking up soil, rocks, trees - and potentially growing powerful enough to carry massive boulders and vehicles.

Authorities would not specify how many people were in each category.

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At noon on Saturday, the evacuation warning issued for areas south of Highway 192 between Ortega Ridge Road to the Santa Barbara County line will be lifted.

A crew found the body of the 18th victim, Joseph Bleckel, 87, before noon in his home near Romero Canyon, Brown said.

The majority of fatalities reported so far occurred in Montecito, the wealthiest district in Santa Barbara. Her son told her to stay upstairs, but he told KSBY-6 she went to the ground level and was taken by the knee-deep current of mud. James was 89, and Alice was 78. Rebecca Riskin, a real estate agent and founder of Riskin Partners, was also killed in the mudslides in Montecito, the company confirmed in a post on its Facebook page Wednesday. Then she added, with a laugh, "that's very unlike me".

Peter Fleurat, 73, who studied nursing at Santa Barbara City College and worked as an end-of-life caregiver, died after water swept through his Montecito home, KSBY reported.

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Barajas, owner of a Santa Barbara restaurant, survived with cuts and bruises and a sprained neck. "Helicopters rescued some people who climbed onto the roofs of their homes to escape the torrent of water, and mud".

The number of dead could climb as crews continue to search through about 30 square miles of mud and debris in Santa Barbara and Ventura counties.

"Roy Rohter was a man of strong faith and a great friend of Catholic education", said Michael F. McLean, president of Thomas Aquinas College. He had been a clinical instructor in the department of Orthopedic Surgery at Harvard Medical School, according to his office's website. The community is also reminded to report all missing persons to the Emergency Operations Center at 805-681-5542 and please be prepared to provide as much detail as possible to the call takers.

One of the survivors of this week's deadly mudslides in Montecito was the subject of one of the most dramatic rescues to take place when she was pulled covered in mud from a collapsed house. Sleeping nearby was Jonathan Benitez, Kaelly's cousin and Ramos' nephew. Those killed were as young as 3 and as old as 84.

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The city of Montecito, close to Santa Barbara, was hardest hit. His father, Pinit Sutthithepa, and 2-year-old sister, Lydia, are among the missing, the county sheriff's office said.

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