Winfrey shared harrowing footage of her backyard following the mudslides' roll through her neighborhood and on Tuesday.
As Johnson and his family ran up to the second level of their home, about 8 to 9 feet of mud followed them closely. "We have a yard to redo and hopefully our insurance will help out with that, but the people across from me, newer homes, gone", said Garrett Speirs, a 54-year-old artist who has been living in Montecito for 20 years.
"I should have just told her to leave".
"Mourning the dead in our little town tonight", Lowe said. And it doesn't take very much rain for that to happen. Homes and historic hotels were battered or swept away altogether.
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The December wildfires burned away hectares of brush and vegetation that normally would have soaked up heavy rainfall in the hills north of Los Angeles.
Hundreds of residents remain trapped and authorities are working on an evacuation plan.
Emergency service agencies have shut off natural gas to most parts of Montecito as they await repairs. The couple, together for more than a half-century, didn't heed a voluntary evacuation warning and stayed home Monday to celebrate Jim Mitchell's 89th birthday.
"We were all exhausted of it", said Montecito resident David Cradduck, 66, who stayed.
Santa Barbara County initially ordered 7,000 residents to evacuate and urged another 23,000 to do so voluntarily, but only 10-15% complied with mandatory orders.
Talk show host Oprah Winfrey said she was praying for people caught up in the devastation, sharing pictures of mud in her back garden and a video of a helicopter which had been rescuing her neighbours. She said that her property was fine and that the damage "pales in comparison" to what her neighbors were going through. 'Thanks everyone for your prayers and concern, ' she wrote.
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The number of missing persons has fluctuated since the disaster hit early Tuesday morning and is now reported at eight people missing.
A search and rescue worker scours through properties after a mudslide in Montecito, California, U.S. January 11, 2018.
"They can move 35 to 50 miles per hour, and some of the boulders that we've seen on the ground are the size of vehicles, of trucks", he says.
"Right now our assets are focused on determining if anyone is still alive in any of those structures that have been damaged", Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown said.
Brown noted that the presence of debris, large rocks, downed trees and power lines, and cars - as well as "knee-deep" mud on the roads - have made accessing the trouble areas hard.
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