California weathers storms, falls into state of emergency

Governor Gavin Newsom declares state of emergency as California comes out of severe snow storms and heavy rainfall

SACRAMENTO – After a series of heavy rain and snowfall, Tulare County and others throughout the state have been subject to damages, causing the governor to intervene.

Governor Gavin Newsom proclaimed a state of emergency to support disaster response and relief in multiple counties, including Tulare on March 1. The state of emergency came after California faced severe winter storms beginning late February, which brought damaging winds and historic rainfall. To remedy this, the governor has activated the California State Operations Center to bring state support to county-led emergency response efforts and coordinate mutual aid from neighboring jurisdictions.

“I find that the conditions caused by these storms, by reason of their magnitude, are or are likely to be beyond the control of the services, personnel, equipment, and facilities of any single local government and require the combined forces of a mutual aid region or regions to appropriately respond,” Newsom said in a statement.

It comes as no surprise, as Tulare County had already declared a state of emergency this January. Only two weeks into the new year, the Central Valley had already seen about 30-50% of its annual average rainfall. The National Weather Service has recorded 3.98 inches of rain at their co-op in Visalia, which is well over the monthly average of .91 inches. With that amount of rain, heavy winds, tornado warnings, evacuation notices and damages, the county declared a state of emergency on Tuesday Jan. 10. The day before, Kaweah River reported the most water intake in the past 16 years.

Not only that, but the state of emergency is intended for areas who are unaccustomed to such extreme snowfall. Tulare County falls right into this category, as this year the Department of Water Resources conducted the first snow survey of the season at Phillips Station in the Sierra Nevadas, and found 55.5 inches of snow depth. For this time of year, the amount of snow recorded is 177% above average for the location.

This most current storm has threatened power outages, forced evacuations and stranded residents and motorists in impacted counties, according to Newsom. These storms reportedly caused damage and forced the closure of federal and state highways and roads, and continue to threaten critical infrastructure as well. Newsom also said that additional storms are forecasted to continue across California, bringing strong winds, blizzard conditions the Sierra Nevada mountains, above normal precipitation and unusually cold temperatures. The state of emergency is reaching from Amador, Kern, Los Angeles, Madera, Mariposa, Mono, Nevada, San Bernardino, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, Sierra, Sonoma and Tulare counties.

Newsom has state personnel on the ground supporting counties, including from the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services (Cal OES), Caltrans and the California Highway Patrol. His goal is to assist local governments and public health through state agencies. Counties will enter into contracts to arrange for the procurement of materials, goods and services to remedy the impact of the storms if necessary.

“I find that local authority is inadequate to cope with the magnitude of the damage caused by these storms,” Newsom said in a statement. “Conditions of extreme peril to the safety of persons and property exist due to these storms.”

San Bernardino County is among the most severely impacted by recent storms. This has caused Cal OES to work with Caltrans and San Bernardino County officials to bring in additional snow plows as well as road crews, and personnel from CAL FIRE and the California National Guard are ready to support operations. The state is also contracting with private companies to accelerate snow removal and clear roadways, and is coordinating with investor-owned utilities to rapidly restore power. Cal OES is coordinating with local officials to open two shelters for residents in San Bernardino County and is coordinating with law enforcement to escort power companies, food and water deliveries and service providers for vulnerable populations.

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