Tuesday, February 7, 2023

500 mudslides, flooding and broken bridges in California face long and costly recovery from storms

Las The atmospheric river storm that ravaged California for weeks caused “extensive” damage in 40 of the state’s 58 counties, and total repairs could reach $1 billion, According to officials cited by the Los Angeles Times.

A pier broke in half in Santa Cruz. Widespread flooding in Villa Soquel, Capitola and Planada. Damaged or closed critical bridge. More than 500 mudslides have been reported in California in recent weeks, some of which damaged homes and cars in the hilly communities of Los Angeles.

According to Brian Ferguson, a spokesman for the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services, the estimated cost is likely to rise as teams of local, state and federal officials begin assessing the damage Saturday, which is expected to continue for several weeks.

President Biden approved an accelerated major disaster declaration on Saturday, directing that federal aid be provided for restoration efforts in areas of California affected by the storm.

All 58 counties are eligible for hazard reduction assistance, which means federal assistance may be provided to state and local governments and specific non-profit organizations to reduce risks to life and property.

Federal aid will reimburse state and local governments for 75% of the cost of repairing infrastructure and other needs.

According to Ferguson, it will provide assistance for individualized programs based on the need and amount of insurance residents have.

loss Local governments in the most damaged areas may pay as little as 8.5% of the cost,

In Merced, Sacramento and Santa Cruz counties, residents will receive assistance to replace or repair damaged property and other services; Nonprofit organizations in those counties will receive federal aid to conduct emergency work and remove debris.

The storm, which began after Christmas and continued through this week, brought rain across the state, killing at least 20 people, prompting evacuations and flooding rivers and highways.

Ferguson said the storms caused “significant” damage along the Central Coast in Merced, Sacramento and Santa Cruz counties, as well as Monterey, Santa Barbara, Ventura and San Benito, with “extensive” costs for 30 or 40 counties. ,

As of Monday, the US Geological Survey had identified more than 500 landslides across the state since December 30, with piles of dirt and rocks blocking roads and downed trees causing power outages.

In Monterey County, the Gonzales River Bridge was weakened by flooding and was too damaged to be used Tuesday, officials said.

The bridge was cordoned off with concrete tracks; It will take two to three weeks to determine the next steps for the repairs. In addition, over the weekend, a rockfall covered a section of Highway 1 that showed “significant instability” following the storm, according to Caltrans.

In Ventura County, rocks and mud piled up to 40 feet high on roads, leaving residents isolated and blocking travel, according to the sheriff’s office.

Officials said it could take up to three weeks to clear the one-lane access road and up to six months to repair it.

Ferguson said that if significant storm damage is found in more counties, they could be added to the disaster declaration.

“There are limits that we need to meet with the Federal Emergency Management Agency to be able to access,” he said. “Our goal is to (maximize) the federal support that we can provide to the communities.”

According to spokesman Nicholas Pasculi, an initial estimate of damage in Monterey County alone was $80 million.

That cost would include debris removal, emergency protective measures and equipment, as well as repairs to utilities, roads, bridges, water control facilities, public buildings, and parks and recreation facilities.

Pasquali said he expected that number to rise to at least $100 million on Tuesday after the county received the latest information.

Pasculi said Monterey County’s agriculture industry suffered $40 million to $50 million in losses, and 25,000 to 35,000 acres of farmland were “severely affected” by the flood.

There was also damage to equipment, irrigation systems, well pumps and crops.

It is estimated that at least $30 million to $50 million in damage was done to infrastructure including roads, bridges, and other buildings throughout the county.

In Sacramento County, the cost of repairs could exceed $123.8 million, but that number is expected to “drop” once officials complete their inspection, according to spokeswoman Samantha Mott.

Mott said that as of Tuesday, the storm had caused about $668,000 in damage to private property, including homes, businesses and outbuildings.

In Santa Cruz County, the estimate as of Friday was $55 million, with spokesman Jason Hoppin calling it “a pretty dramatic underestimation.”

“This number is going to (increase) rapidly,” he said. “This is just a fraction of what the final number will be.”

Hoppin said this figure does not include private property, Caltrans infrastructure or state highways. He said that the assessment of the damage is going on.

“When it rains every day, you can’t measure things,” Hoppin said, noting that Tuesday was the first sunny day in weeks. “We have roads that are still developing in terms of fallout.”

According to Patrick Maynard, director of the Sheriff’s Office of Emergency Services, more than $30 million in damage was done to public property in Ventura County.

More than 80 private properties were affected, including two destroyed structures, he said, adding that Ventura should have an updated damage assessment later this week.

Merced County spokesman Mike North did not have a loss estimate as assessments are ongoing, but he said the agricultural sector has been hit hardest economically.

“However, it has affected most sectors of our economy,” he said.

Another storm system is expected to roll into California from the Pacific Northwest this week, according to National Weather Service meteorologist David Sweet, but it won’t bring significant rain.

Up to a half-inch of rain is expected in the Bay Area on Wednesday, mainly in parts of Sonoma and Napa counties. Drizzle or light rain could occur in the Los Angeles area early Thursday.

“The ground is saturated, so the rivers will react very quickly with excess rain, and there will be some hydrological problems, because we are now very close to saturation,” he said.

Saturday’s storm dumped a record rainfall of 1.82 inches in Downtown Los Angeles, surpassing the old record of 1.56, set in 1978.Speak sweetly

At Long Beach Airport, there were 1.72 inches, surpassing the 1978 record of 1.48. Records were also broken Saturday in Camarillo and Paso Robles.

Downtown Los Angeles has received 13.01 inches of rain so far this hydrological year, which began on October 1. The normal figure for this time of year is 5.67 inches.

“There was an atmospheric river for every one of the storms we’ve had over the past few weeks, and those are the storms that supply most of the West Coast’s precipitation (with it) during the winter season,” Sweet said. “It was a bit unusual to see so many atmospheric rivers lined up like this.”

He cited the rainfall totals in Santa Barbara County as particularly impressive.

“On average, this type of rainfall is expected once every 100 years,” Sweet said. “It doesn’t mean that it takes 100 years for another hurricane to form, but generally, with the average data for that area, you would only expect something like this to happen once in 100 years.”

According to the US Drought Monitor, the storms improved California’s drought conditions, eliminating the two most severe categories, “extreme” and “extraordinary”.

On December 27, approximately 7.16% of California was considered to be in “extraordinary” drought conditions; As of January 10, no one from the state was in that ranking.

Despite the deluge, Sweet said, if the state was dry for the rest of the water year, as it was last year, vegetation on the hills could dry out, leading to a potentially dangerous wildfire season this summer. “Usually if it doesn’t rain from January to March, we can have a busy fire season,” he said. “By the time July and August roll around, things have dried up.”

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