Around 100 homes have been destroyed and 28 people left injured in an area that was hit by devastating forest fires just a few weeks earlier.
Around 500 rescuers with dogs, military helicopters, and thermal imaging equipment are on the scene and yesterday, dogs helped rescue 10 people left stranded by the mudslides.
The terrain has been destroyed and debris including fallen trees, boulders and waist-deep mud have made rescue efforts difficult.
Heavy rain on Tuesday saw mud pour into the valley and as well as the 100 destroyed homes, hundreds of other structures have been left damaged by the incident.
California mudslide: 17 people have been killed and at least eight are still missing
Marco Farrell, 45, was with his parents at their home in Montecito when the flash flood started surging towards the house.
Farrell, who filmed the ordeal, turns the camera up the street outside the house to reveal a terrifying mudslide charging towards him.
He yells: “Oh my god, Mom!” before sprinting back into the house.
He shouts to his 71-year-old mother: “Get ready to go out! Wake dad up!”
California mudslide map: Where are the worst affected areas?
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We ran into the house and right then the boulders busted through the house
In an interview with ABC News the following day, Farrell said: “The scariest thing was the sound.
“It sounded like the scariest monster you ever heard, banging on your door.”
Berkeley ‘Augie’ Johnson has a similar story. He ran back indoors with his family as soon as the mud approached and was forced to climb out of an upstairs window as the mud smashed into his home.
A van sits buried in flood waters and mud after debris flow during heavy rains in California
Johnson even managed to pull a baby out of about four feet of mud.
He said: “We don’t know where it came from but we got it out, took the mud out of his mouth. I hope that’s OK.”
A 14-year-old girl was rescued shortly afterwards, covered head-to-toe in mud.
The girl was led by firefighters from a pile of wood and debris that was once a house, a photo from Santa Barbara County Fire Department showed.
An aerial view from a Ventura County helicopter shows a site damaged by mudslide in Montecito
Others were not so lucky. Josie Gower held onto a door frame when the terrifying river of mud rushed inside her Montecito home.
The 69-year-old woman and her boyfriend were at home when the mudslide swept through the neighbourhood.
Diane Brewer, one of Gower’s friends, told CNN: “”For some reason, she opened the front door” and was swept away.
Josie Gower is among those who have been reported dead in Santa Barbara County, while others remain missing.
California resident Marco Farrell was lucky to escape unharmed
US 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.
DeGeneres said on her talk show on Thursday that the picturesque town of 9,000 is a “tight-knit” community.
She said: ”It’s not just a wealthy community, it’s filled with a lot of different types of people from all backgrounds.
“And there are families missing, there are people who are missing family members… it’s catastrophic.”