President Joe Biden approved an emergency declaration for California on Monday, giving more federal resources for disaster relief and emergency services in preparation for additional damage and rescue needs with another bomb cyclone storm hitting the state.
California has already experienced several bomb cyclone systems since New Year’s Eve. While the whole state has been affected by high winds, snow, rain, flooding, mudslides, power outages, and other negative effects, most damage has been concentrated in Northern California. The Sacramento area has seen large floods and stay at home orders due to the storm, with a surge in Santa Cruz destroying an entire pier and power going out for millions statewide. A total of 12 people have died from the storms statewide in the past 10 days, with even more possible following the most recent storm.
The bomb cyclones have prompted local, state, and federal officials to go into action to help mitigate damage and bring additional funding and resources to hard hit areas. Last week, Governor Gavin Newsom issued a state of emergency in response to the storms. Under the order, the mobilization of the California National Guard to support disaster response was initiated, as well as Caltrans being directed to request immediate assistance through the Federal Highway Administration’s Emergency Relief Program to support highway repairs and other support for local response and recovery efforts. The State Operations Center also moved to it’s highest level as a result.
“California is mobilizing to keep people safe from the impacts of the incoming storm,” Governor Newsom said last week. “This state of emergency will allow the state to respond quickly as the storm develops and support local officials in their ongoing response.”
In addition to the state order, local municipalities ramped up efforts, ranging from a greater focus on rescue services to closing schools to evacuating at-risk areas. While things had calmed down by the weekend, another storm soon began to approach California, with the National Weather Service (NWS) warning of even more inclement weather and damage.
“The hits keep coming in CA. The next and most potent storm of the series will bring yet another round of heavy rain on already flooded rivers & saturated soils, high winds that may topple trees/power lines, and heavy snow on top of an enormous snowpack,” tweeted the NWS.
The hits keep coming in CA. The next and most potent storm of the series will bring yet another round of heavy rain on already flooded rivers & saturated soils, high winds that may topple trees/power lines, and heavy snow on top of an enormous snowpack. Wintry mix in the Mid-Atl. pic.twitter.com/Vpnwv7C2aw
— National Weather Service (@NWS) January 9, 2023
Biden, FEMA sign off on assistance for California
The new system prompted state officials to once again request help. Faced with additional need to fight against the storm in the form of federal resources and personnel, Governor Newsom sent an official request for help to President Biden and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) on Sunday night.
“We are in the middle of a deadly barrage of winter storms – and California is using every resource at its disposal to protect lives and limit damage,” said Governor Newsom in a statement on Sunday. “We are taking the threat from these storms seriously, and want to make sure that Californians stay vigilant as more storms head our way.”
Only hours later, President Biden and FEMA approved the request just as high winds and rain began to pick up. According to Biden’s emergency declaration, FEMA will help coordinate disaster relief efforts and mobilize federal emergency resources to areas in need.
“The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) was authorized to mobilize and provide equipment and resources to alleviate the impacts of the severe winter storms,” said the White House in a statement on Monday.
While there have been some positive aspects of the storms, such as state water and snowpack levels rising exponentially after years of drought, with snowpack alone being nearly double the normal amount before the storms this weekend, the storms and subsequent federal intervention have made many Californians see this as a mixed blessing.
“We really did need the snow and the rain, ” explained Marty Evers, a rescue worker in Stanislaus County, to the Globe on Monday. “But the cost of it has really been high. A lot of good people are out of their homes or not getting power right now, and its getting worse right now. Some Sacramento County residents have even come down here for assistance, and that should tell you the need right now in some places.”
“You hate to ask for help, but federal help really is needed right now. Hey, we pay taxes for rescue workers like myself or to FEMA just in case the worst happens, and when it does, you can call on it. Goal right now is to save lives and stop damage however we can. We’ll take whatever help we can get to make that happen. I wish we had gotten it sooner, we should of, but we have it now.”
Storms are currently expected intermittingly for at least the next week across the state, with more state and federal assistance likely should damages and rescue need continue.
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