Governor Gavin Newsom issued a State of Emergency in 20 counties on Thursday due to winter storms that brought unprecedented rain and snowfall across the state over the past week.
In Northern California, many cities saw massive amounts of rain, with higher elevation areas seeing snow levels that have not been seen for decades. A 51-year-old snowfall record in Lake Tahoe was shattered earlier this week, turning what was considered by many to be another underwhelming ski season to one where the amount of needed snow is now around 160%. Power was also knocked out in many areas.
Meanwhile, Central and Southern California have also seen unprecedented precipitation amounts, with Los Angeles’ famed Union Station even seeing flooding on Thursday due to unexpended rainfall. So much has fallen across the state this month that drought conditions, once seen as dire for 2022, have now been significantly mitigated with new snowpack in the mountains and many reservoirs regaining water lost from the last several years.
“While the storms have brought positives, the rain and snow fall have conversely knocked out power, shut down roads, closed freeways, and brought flood, landslide, and blizzard emergencies in different parts of the state, necessitating the Governor’s Thursday order. The main focus of the order is around recovery and response efforts, including receiving funds and support to reopen freeways and roads as soon as possible to get other forms of assistance out,” noted the order.
20 counties are covered in the order, including Alameda, Amador, Calaveras, El Dorado, Humboldt, Lake, Los Angeles, Marin, Monterey, Napa, Nevada, Orange, Placer, Sacramento, San Bernardino, San Luis Obispo, San Mateo, Santa Cruz, Sierra and Yuba Counties.
Governor @GavinNewsom today issued an emergency proclamation to support the ongoing response to recent winter storms.
Stay safe & avoid mountain travel.https://t.co/cW9sAH7Qip
— Office of the Governor of California (@CAgovernor) December 31, 2021
A new State of Emergency Order by Governor Newsom
On Wednesday, shortly before releasing his emergency proclamation, Newsom hinted at an upcoming order and said that “At my direction, the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services has activated the State Operations Center to monitor storm conditions and coordinate all necessary assistance. I want to thank all our emergency responders for working diligently through trying weather conditions to keep our communities safe. I strongly encourage all Californians to avoid making the situation worse and refrain from traveling on mountain roads until conditions improve.”
The governor’s Office of Emergency Services (Cal OES) added on Thursday that some regulations will be skipped and a closer coordination of state services will occur to speed up the state response to the storms and their effects.
“For the last week, the team here at the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services has been coordinating the response to these storms on behalf of the state,” explained Cal OES director Mark Ghilarducci in a statement. “We are also closely coordinating with and supporting the work of state partners like Caltrans, the California Highway Patrol, Cal Fire and others to rapidly respond to issues as they arise.”
Rescuers and first responders , who have been fielding calls across the state for several weeks, also noted the increasing urgency on Friday.
“You know, this is post-Christmas with New Years on the way and all sorts of other thins going on, like people travelling home into or out of California,” said David Lyons, a Los Angeles County rescue workers who has been working during the floods, to the Globe on Friday. “A lot of drivers here don’t do so well in the rain, so as you can imagine we’ve been busy. Luckily the weather has now been clearing up for us.
“If this emergency order makes our jobs easier and it saves lives, then it’s good. You won’t hear any arguments from any of us. We’re here to save lives.”
Despite improved weather conditions, the emergency order is expected to stay in place into January.
Assemblyman Kevin Kiley (R-Rocklin) called on Governor Gavin Newsom Thursday to take all possible measures to help Northern Californians without power, including deployment of the National Guard to provide generators to families until power is restored.