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Storms drench California
Millions of Californians have already been impacted by the latest wave of devastating atmospheric rivers this past month, in a winter that many Californians have not seen or experienced for the better part of the last two decades.
To elevate the state’s response. Governor Gavin Newsom has declared a state of emergency in 40 counties and requested and received a federal declaration from President Biden. These declarations will help to secure needed resources to counter the damage expected from the severe storms.
At a March 13 EMS briefing, experts from the state’s Office of Emergency Services, shared a range of options and resources available to residents to prepare for the upcoming hazardous conditions.
Evacuation from storms
Diana Crofts-Pelayo, Assistant Director for Crisis Communications and Public affairs at the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services (CalOES), described the state’s coordinated response efforts to protect California communities during the storms. The impact of extreme weather has left 15,800 people under evacuation orders in 16 counties, and about 6800 people without power. There are 33 shelters open in 14 counties and the OES will coordinate with local governments on resources like comfort kits, generators, sandbags, and other items.
Emergency response teams, specialized Fire and Rescue engines, and swift water rescue teams will be made available to affected areas from less impacted counties, said Crofts-Pelayo. The federal government will provide personnel and resources that will include generators, road clearance equipment, supplies, sheltering and potential mass care assistance.
She advised people to go to Calalerts.org for evacuation information. She suggested putting together emergency kits – backpacks with basic essentials like food, water, and important documents. Crofts-Pelayo warned residents that driving especially round barricades could people at risk of being swept away.
Resources and outreach will be available in indigenous dialects and multiple languages.
David Lawrence, a meteorologist with the National Weather Services and liaison to Cal OES provided insight into this week’s weather pattern and what Californians can expect. He referred to satellite images that showed “a large plume of cloudiness over the Pacific that sort of aimed right at the state of California.” Widespread heavy rainfall would drench over much of northern and central California with some localized amounts that will exceed 10 inches.
Additional rain will create flooding across much of the state and very, heavy snowfall, especially in the Sierra above about 7500 feet. Wind gusts of 40 to 60 miles per hour are likely in the lower elevations and exceed 80 miles per hour. He warned that winds and wet soil could fell trees, down power lines, cause rock and mudslides and flash flooding. On a positive note, the record-setting rainfall and snowfall have put a significant dent in the drought across California, added Lawrence.
Safety Tips for Communities
Vance Taylor, Chief of OES’ Access and Functional Needs at Cal OES offered a comprehensive list of critical safety tips for communities. As more storms come in, he said, there are individuals who will be at higher risk for negative impact. This includes People who have physical, developmental, or intellectual disabilities, people who are transportation disadvantaged people who maybe don’t have English as their primary language, anyone with chronic injury or illness, anyone that’s economically depressed, or experiencing homelessness.
He advised preparing for a loss of power by keeping equipment charged for people using devices like ventilators or durable medical equipment. Taylor said the Disability Disaster Access and Resources Program would provide backup batteries, free evacuation services, hotel vouchers, food vouchers, and gas cards to those who needed help. He advised making a list of friends, family members, co-workers neighbors that can help with evacuation.
Corrinne Buchanan, Deputy Secretary for Policy and Strategic Planning with California Health and Human Services Agency outlined the many vital healthcare-related resources available. The Department of Social Services has supported the 33 shelters, including 27 congregate shelters and six non-congregate shelters across the state. The agency will work with the American Red Cross and the Emergency Medical Services Authority to augment local capacity for EMS response.
A priority populations Task Force has been set up to assist the homeless, older or medically vulnerable residents, people with disabilities, and people residing in congregate facilities. To address concerns about loved ones in long term care facilities, people could call the Long Term Care Ombudsman crisis line (1-800-231-4024). A helpline at 1-833-317-4673 is available for emotional support, and a free crisis intervention hotline, and a warm line for non-emergency emotional support for older adults, is available at 1-888-670-1360.
For more information go to www.chs.ca.gov.
Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash