One rescue worker tearfully described plucking a "muddy doll" of a toddler from under several feet of debris.
The couple and their three children - a seven-year-old boy, three-year-old girl and a baby - were rescued by the US Coast Guard in Carpinteria, a small oceanside city located in southeastern Santa Barbara County.
The intensity of the devastation and the difficulty of traversing rivers of mud and debris have made it a challenge for local officials to get an accurate tally of the damage. "So many times over the past 15 years, people have come up to me and [said] to me that when they're going through a tough time, this show helps them through it".
Celebrities who have properties in the area have also been affected. Residents of the slide-hit area were assessing damaged homes, with some grateful that their properties survived.
Diane Brewer, one of Gower's friends, told CNN: "For some reason, she opened the front door" and was swept away". Evacuations were ordered for about 700 residences.
"Mourning the dead in our little town tonight", Lowe wrote in a tweet.
The storm came after a 10-month dry spell following torrential rains in January and February of past year. Homes and historic hotels were battered or swept away altogether.
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Heavy downpours hit ground that had been burned by wildfires that took hold in December.
Emergency service agencies have shut off natural gas to most parts of Montecito as they await repairs.
Thousands had to leave their homes, many for the second time in two months.
"We were all exhausted of it", said Montecito resident David Cradduck, 66, who stayed. In a post on Instagram, Winfrey shared photos of the deep mud in her backyard and video of rescue helicopters hovering over her house.
He yells: "Oh my god, Mom!" before sprinting back into the house. Earlier, officials said just eight people were unaccounted for.
While families frantically search for their loved ones and pets, first responders are working tirelessly to save everyone they can find.
"We realise that this is going to be a long and hard journey for all of us and our community", Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown told reporters at a late afternoon news conference.
A home is surrounded by mud and debris caused by a massive mudflow in Montecito, Jan. 10, 2018.