US President Joe Biden has declared a state of major disaster in the state of California, the latest in a series storm system has caused severe flooding in already flooded areas and threatens to produce snowfalls up to two meters (six feet) thick.
The latest system is expected to bring “heavy rain at lower altitudes, substantial mountain snow and strong winds”, along with “increased Pacific humidity” expected on Monday. , said the National Weather Service (NWS).
It predicted “catastrophic flooding” across the lower Salinas River valley, a key agricultural area south of the San Francisco Bay.
Late Saturday, Biden “declared that a major disaster exists in the State of California and ordered Federal aid to supplement State, tribal, and local recovery efforts in affected areas.” affected by severe winter storms, floods, landslides and landslides”, White House speak in a statement.
“Help can include grants for temporary housing and home repairs, low-cost loans to cover uninsured property losses, and other programs to help individuals and homeowners. businesses recover from the effects of the disaster,” the statement said.
“Federal funding is also available to eligible State, tribal, and local governments as well as certain private nonprofit organizations on a cost-sharing basis for emergency work in the counties.” Merced, Sacramento and Santa Cruz.”
Thank you, @POTUS for supporting Californians as we continue to be impacted by severe winter storms.
Severe winds and rain are still expected across the state. Stay safe and remain alert. https://t.co/V2DcoKuv0U
– Gavin Newsom (@GavinNewsom) January 15, 2023
At least 19 people are known to have died from storm-related causes in the past three weeks.
Among them are the driver found in the flooded car, the person crushed by a fallen tree and the couple killed by a rock slide.
Rising water and unfavorable conditions caused the search for 5-year-old Kyle Doan, who was swept away by floodwaters as his mother tried to pull him out of their car to safety, the San Luis County Sheriff’s office said. Obispo said Saturday. .
In Spreckels, a community a few hundred meters from the Salinas River, most residents chose not to evacuate despite warnings from authorities.
Robert Zagajeski, walking his dog in light rain, told AFP news agency: “It looks like we’ve missed out on the worst.
A few kilometers away, 30-year-old farm worker Erick Diaz watches the flooded fields from his house near the river. Despite the evacuation order, he also stayed.
“I have nowhere to go and for now, everything is fine,” he said.
Floodwaters from the San Lorenzo River surged, cut through the town in the Santa Cruz Mountains, inundated Felton Grove, prompting emergency evacuations.
Trash cans were seen floating in the street, with water reaching up to stop signs and overtaking parked vehicles.
‘Is not done’
Nearly 26 million Californians remain under one flood clock on Saturday night, according to the NWS, with tens of thousands of people ordered to evacuate and advised.
“The reality is that this is only the eighth of what we predict will be nine atmospheric rivers – we’re not done yet,” California Governor Gavin Newsom said during a briefing with officials. local leader, where he urged people to be vigilant about future safety. 24 to 48 hours.
“This is happening all over California but I would say… you are disproportionately bearing the brunt of it, and if you feel that way you are right,” Newsom added.
Officials said the storms of recent weeks were initially welcome – coming after years of drought – but have now brought “catastrophic” flooding.
“This place has been hit hard by drought over the years,” 58-year-old farm worker Manuel Paris told AFP near Salinas. “We’re not used to this much rain anymore.”
The NWS says an additional 5.0 to 7.5 centimeters (2 to 3 inches) could cause new flooding and landslides, with parts of the Sierra Nevada snowing between 90 and 180 centimeters (3 to 6 feet) thick. ) and strong winds hit central and coastal California at peaks of 80km/h (50 mph).
More than 68,000 utility customers were without power on Saturday morning, a number that had been cut by more than half by afternoon, according to poweroutage.us.