March 29, 2023 – California’s Governor Gavin Newsom has requested a Presidential Major Disaster Declaration to support the emergency response and recovery in nine Californian counties affected by severe storms. The state has already invested over $60 million in response and recovery, deploying the California National Guard and providing resources such as food, water, and medical support. The declaration request addresses communities impacted by flooding, snow, mudslides, avalanches, and debris flows from storms that started on February 21, with more counties potentially being added after further damage assessments.
Newsom has also expanded the storm state of emergency to four additional counties, bringing the total to 47 counties since late February. The Presidential Major Disaster Declaration, if approved, will offer support through housing assistance, food aid, counseling, medical and legal services, and will help state, tribal, and local governments with ongoing emergency response costs. The request also includes hazard mitigation to reduce the risks and impacts of future disasters. President Biden had previously issued a Presidential Emergency Declaration to support storm response and recovery efforts in California.
The Governor’s press release lists an “all in-state response” plan highlighting ongoing response and recovery efforts, including opening a Local Assistance Center in Watsonville, providing support for community members and businesses affected by disaster-related damages. The California Department of Social Services is mobilizing funds from the state’s Rapid Response Fund to help undocumented workers and ineligible communities for FEMA assistance. Various state departments and organizations are involved in recovery efforts, including providing clean water, removing hazardous waste, and addressing flood-related drinking water issues. The Cal Guard and CAL FIRE have deployed personnel for rescue operations and damage inspection, while Caltrans is working to keep roads open and plow snow.
Shelters have been set up for displaced residents, with 11 fairgrounds providing space for shelter or staging needs. The Labor and Workforce Development Agency is coordinating support for affected residents, including providing disaster assistance and interpreter services for Indigenous communities. California Volunteers has deployed AmeriCorps members to help care for displaced animals, and the Division of the State Architect is inspecting schools and public buildings to make sure they are safe to occupy.