Governor Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency throughout most of Southern California on Sunday and Monday over the large atmospheric river event that is currently bringing massive amounts of rain and flooding to the region.
The storm, which first made landfall in Northern California on Saturday, quickly became a statewide issue on Sunday following expected flooding, high winds, and inches of rain suddenly falling. However, Southern California received the brunt of the storm on Sunday and Monday, with the worst of it hitting coastal areas. Parts of Santa Barbara County underwent a rare evacuation order because of the expected damage. As of Monday, the National Weather Service still has 38 million being covered by some sort of flood alert and 3 people already dead because of branch falling incidents related to the event.
In the midst of this, Governor Newsom also declared a state of emergency in Southern California, covering the counties of Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Diego, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara and Ventura. According to Newsom, these 8 counties will receive emergency assets as soon as possible over the high winds, damaging rain and heavy snowfall in the area. The announcement came after a similar one also by Newsom on Friday, promising “8,300 boots on the ground” ahead of the next atmospheric river event. In addition California activated its State Operations Center, Flood Operations Center, Caltrans Emergency Operations Center and the Medical Health Coordination Center in preparation, with Newsom declaring a Northern California state of emergency in Humboldt, Imperial, Monterey, San Mateo and Santa Cruz counties just before the weekend.
“California: this is a serious storm with dangerous and potentially life-threatening impacts. Please pay attention to any emergency orders or alerts from local officials,” said Newsom on Sunday. “California is ready with a record number of emergency assets on the ground to respond to the impacts of this storm.”
California is ready with a record number of emergency assets on the ground to respond to this storm.
This is a serious storm with dangerous and potentially life-threatening impacts. Pay attention to any emergency orders or alerts from local officials. pic.twitter.com/bozPzVJpi5
— Office of the Governor of California (@CAgovernor) February 4, 2024
In addition, the state of emergency proclamation goes as far as to allow Newsom to mobilize the California National Guard, and waiving certain licensing and medical requirements to allow hospitals and health care facilities to remain operational during the storm.
“The California National Guard may be mobilized under Military and Veterans Code section 146 to support disaster response and relief efforts, as directed by the Office of Emergency Services, and to coordinate with all relevant state agencies and state and local emergency responders and law enforcement within the impacted areas,” said Newsom’s state of emergency. “In order to ensure hospitals, clinics, and other health facilities remain open, the Director of the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) may waive any of the licensing requirements of [certain chapters] of the Health and Safety Code and accompanying regulations with respect to any hospital, clinic, other health facility, home health agency, or hospice agency identified in the Health and Safety Code that is impacted by the early February 2024 storms.”
Meanwhile, counties in SoCal made similar emergency declarations, as did more local leaders including Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass.
“With unprecedented rain came unprecedented preparation, and now comes unprecedented response,” said Bass on Monday, who later visited flood struck areas of the city with emergency workers. “All through the night, firefighters, police officers, street repair crews, traffic engineers, parks and recreation staff and the entire city family have worked to address this storm. To help facilitate this response, this morning I have signed a declaration of a local emergency, which will help our response and ensure that the city has the required resources to respond to the storm now, but also in the recovery period.”
The City will work urgently to assist Angelenos in need of assistance not just as the rain continues, but also as we work to recover. pic.twitter.com/axMhZ31cej
— Mayor Karen Bass (@MayorOfLA) February 5, 2024
Several emergency workers, during break moments, told the Globe on Monday that the states of emergency have so far been effective, but that they hoped that lawmakers would not go into danger areas just yet.
“Like all the states of emergency we had last year with those storms, this year has had everyone be in business mode,” explained emergency worker Terry Campbell to the Globe on Monday during a break in the field. “For a lot of people, the best they could do is stay inside and not go out unless absolutely necessary. Well, ok, some of the guys have gotten coffee from some people and little things like that. We appreciate that. And by far the vast majority of people have been compliant.”
“I wish some mayors and other politicians would just hunker down like everyone else and help direct things from their homes and offices rather than go out now and survey areas. It pulls a lot of the guys away to make they have things like clear paths or making sure they’re going to an area that isn’t dangerous. Most wait until the danger is minimal to go out and to not tie all of us up, but there have been a few today, and they have been, I guess a nice way to say it is disappointing.”
A colleague of Campbell’s chimed in over the line, “They’re [expletive] idiots. Just wait. Stop pulling us and the police and fire crews away to fuel your [expletive] ego.”
Campbell then added “Yeah, what he said. But, overall, give us the time to make sure things will be fine and, in harder hit areas, to make sure that the area remains safe. Everyone thinks they are Arnold Schwarzenegger or some superhero heading out in weather like this until their car gets stuck and flooded and we have to pull them out.”
The storm is expected to continue throughout the week, although it is expected to weaken significantly on Tuesday.
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