Oprah Winfrey's home damaged by deadly California mudslides

U.S. 101 Swamped in Southern California

U.S. 101 Swamped in Southern California

As many as 24 people remain unaccounted for, said Chris Elms, a spokesman for state firefighters.

Similar issues emerged in last year's wine country wildfires in Northern California, where at times thousands were reported missing, the overwhelming majority simply people whose communication with friends and family had been cut off by the fires.

"Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown described the devastation this way: 'It looked like a World War I battlefield".

Berkeley Johnson, a Montecito resident who narrowly escaped the onslaught that wiped out his home, made the life-saving discovery Tuesday, Santa Barbara City Fire spokeswoman Amber Anderson told TIME.

At least 25 people were injured, 50 or more had to be rescued by helicopters, and an undetermined number of others were missing, authorities said.

USA talk show host Ellen DeGeneres and media mogul Oprah Winfrey are among the residents of the community and both have taken to social media to describe what they've seen.

"It's a total miracle that this house didn't just get washed away", he says.

Officials have released the identities of 17 people killed in Tuesday's Santa Barbara, Calif., mudslides, as workers continue search and rescue efforts for victims caught in the deluge that swamped houses, crumpled cars and sent boulders careening through streets.

About 100 homes were destroyed and 300 more damaged in the county.

According to some reports, more than 160 people were transported to hospitals for storm-related injuries.

DeGeneres posted a picture on Twitter of herself standing in mud next to a downed tree near her home.

Officials are asking the public to stay out of the area west of Sheffield Drive/East Valley Road/Ladera Lane, east of Olive Mill/Hot Springs Road, north of the ocean and south of the US Forest Service boundary. Residents of the slide-hit area were assessing damaged homes, with some grateful that their properties survived.

Ben Hyatt rushed to wake everyone up when rivers of mud started banging the doors and walls of his Montecito home.

Capt. Cindy Pontes of the Santa Barbara division of the California Highway Patrol said that northbound Highway 101 was shut down in Ventura County at Highway 126 and again at Seacliff.

The only remnants of the homes on Olive Mill Road were the faint traces of their foundation and the neighbors that knew of them. "I live there, Oprah lives there".

The first significant rain Santa Barbara County saw after the Thomas fire left hillsides without brush triggered mudslides and other debris flow early Tuesday that ran a path of destruction through the neighborhood.

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