(CNN)At least 20 people have died as a result of the mudslides that devastated Montecito, California, according to the California Department of Fire and Forestry Protection.
The Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office announced Sunday that 30-year-old Pinit Sutthithepa had been found dead. Four people, ranging in age from 2 to 53, remain missing. The mudslides came in the early morning hours of Tuesday, destroying an estimated 65 homes and damaging hundreds of others, the Cal Fire release said. Rescue crews continue to sift through mud and wreckage looking for the missing, said Cal Fire, adding, “The large amounts of mud and debris are making access and progress challenging.”Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown announced Saturday that search and rescue crews had found the body of 25-year-old Morgan Corey, whose 12-year-old sister, Sawyer, was found dead earlier in the week. Read MoreThose killed ranged in age from 3 to 89, and all lived in Montecito in Santa Barbara County, northwest of Los Angeles, authorities said.Officials have stressed they expect the number of missing persons “to fluctuate significantly.” Survivors recall when the 'mud came in an instant'Rescuers have been searching frantically for the missing since rivers of mud and boulders plowed through neighborhoods in and near Montecito, an affluent seaside community east of Santa Barbara, demolishing homes and leaving roads impassable. “In disaster circumstances, there have been many miraculous stories of people lasting many days. We certainly are searching for a miracle right now,” Brown said Thursday.”But realistically we suspect that we are going to continue to have discovery of people who were killed in this incident.”How to help the victims of the California mudslidesUS 101, a major freeway connecting Northern and Southern California, remains closed. It’s not clear when the highway — which officials had said would reopen on Monday — will be cleared for travel. The exact timing of the freeway’s reopening is now “unknown,” California Highway Patrol Captain Cindy Pontes said Friday. Evacuation zone increased The immediate areas where people were killed are under mandatory evacuation, and officials increased the size of the evacuation zone Thursday as authorities continue their search and rescue efforts.”We know that this a terribly inconvenient development, but it is also incredibly necessary,” Brown said. “This entire area is a very active rescue and recovery and repair zone right now.” Photos: Deadly mudslides in Southern CaliforniaAn aerial view of Montecito, California, shows mudflow and debris on Wednesday, January 10. Heavy rains unleashed deadly mudslides Tuesday that damaged or swept away dozens of homes in Southern California.Hide Caption 1 of 18 Photos: Deadly mudslides in Southern CaliforniaA damaged home is seen in Montecito on January 10.Hide Caption 2 of 18 Photos: Deadly mudslides in Southern CaliforniaPart of a structure sits in a tree after being knocked off its foundation by a Montecito mudslide on January 10.Hide Caption 3 of 18 Photos: Deadly mudslides in Southern CaliforniaEmergency personnel carry a woman from a collapsed house after a mudslide in Montecito on Tuesday, January 9. Hide Caption 4 of 18 Photos: Deadly mudslides in Southern CaliforniaKerry Mann navigates the large boulders and mudflow that destroyed her friend’s home in Montecito.Hide Caption 5 of 18 Photos: Deadly mudslides in Southern CaliforniaA view of the 101 freeway from Olive Mill Road in Montecito.Hide Caption 6 of 18 Photos: Deadly mudslides in Southern CaliforniaPhillip Harnsberger crosses through mud from a flooded creek in Montecito on January 9. Hide Caption 7 of 18 Photos: Deadly mudslides in Southern CaliforniaMud fills the interior of a destroyed car in Burbank on January 9.Hide Caption 8 of 18 Photos: Deadly mudslides in Southern CaliforniaRunoff water from a creek floods Highway 101 in Montecito on January 9. Flooding forced many heavily traveled roads to close.Hide Caption 9 of 18 Photos: Deadly mudslides in Southern CaliforniaReilly, a search dog with the Santa Barbara County Fire Department, looks for victims in Montecito on January 9.Hide Caption 10 of 18 Photos: Deadly mudslides in Southern CaliforniaA firefighter clears debris in Los Angeles on January 9.Hide Caption 11 of 18 Photos: Deadly mudslides in Southern CaliforniaA van is stuck in the mud in the Sun Valley neighborhood of Los Angeles on January 9.Hide Caption 12 of 18 Photos: Deadly mudslides in Southern CaliforniaA police vehicle drives across a flooded side road in Montecito, near the San Ysidro exit of Highway 101 on January 9.Hide Caption 13 of 18 Photos: Deadly mudslides in Southern CaliforniaMud covers a road in Burbank on January 9. Hide Caption 14 of 18 Photos: Deadly mudslides in Southern CaliforniaLos Angeles firefighters work amid floodwaters and mud on January 9.Hide Caption 15 of 18 Photos: Deadly mudslides in Southern CaliforniaA member of the Long Beach search and rescue team looks for survivors in a car in Montecito on January 9.Hide Caption 16 of 18 Photos: Deadly mudslides in Southern CaliforniaMud washes away personal belongings in the Sun Valley neighborhood of Los Angeles on January 9.Hide Caption 17 of 18 Photos: Deadly mudslides in Southern CaliforniaRushing rainwater fills the Los Angeles River near downtown Los Angeles.Hide Caption 18 of 18The zone, which includes areas formerly under voluntary evacuation advisories, will be in effect for one week but residents should plan for two, Brown said.Rescue workers are using helicopters and all-terrain vehicles in a search hampered by blocked roads and downed trees and power lines. Billy Grokenberger lives in a part of Montecito that was under a voluntary evacuation order. He and his parents put their belongings in three cars in case they decided to leave before the storm. They didn’t.”We had thought about leaving, but we had just had the fires,” he said, referring to the recent wildfires that stripped the area of needed vegetation. “… We didn’t take it serious(ly) enough.” Damage in the chapel at La Casa de Maria in Montecito. On the morning of the storm, Grokenberger watched as 2 to 3 feet of water streamed down the street. “(In) four minutes the water was through our wall and in our house, almost to the second story,” he said.”The house is destroyed, but you know, there’s just so many others who are less fortunate. But we just feel lucky that we were able to get out and (are) alive.” Risk of mudslides for yearsThe storm hit hard between 3 and 6 a.m. Tuesday. The rain poured down on hillsides charred by recent wildfires, which burned vegetation that otherwise could make the terrain more resistant to mudslides.The Thomas Fire — the largest wildfire in California’s recorded history — burned more than 281,000 acres in Santa Barbara and Ventura counties from early December into this month. It wasn’t fully contained until this week. Geologists and forecasters warned that intense rain could trigger deadly mudslides from the scorched areas.And because of the fire, communities below the scarred terrain could remain at risk of mudslides for years, said Randall Jibson, a research geologist with the US Geological Survey.Montecito may be at slightly less risk now, because this week’s flooding already brought down vulnerable material. Thomas Fire, once largest in California history, is now 100% contained“(But) no storm brings down everything that is susceptible. There’s almost always more” that could come down, Jibson said.What can be done? One long-term option would be to build more basins to slow down storm runoff and collect debris.Short term, making the public ready to evacuate during heavy rains is key, he said.Montecito and Carpinteria are especially vulnerable to mudslides because their steep terrain in some places goes from thousands of feet above sea level to the ocean in just a few miles, said Tom Fayram, a deputy public works director with Santa Barbara County.