Southern California is finally seeing blue skies after rain poured across the state for nearly a month as a massive atmospheric river made its way down the coast, but for many, the recovery process is just beginning.
The majority of the atmospheric river system that resulted in 20 deaths across the state and brought 7 inches of rain to parts of L.A. County has now moved further inland. Now, a multi-jurisdictional cleanup is getting underway.
“From the big picture standpoint, there’s an immediate response aspect to make sure that there’s life, safety and property preservation actions that are taken,” L.A. County Office of Emergency Management Director Kevin McGowan said Wednesday. “Afterwards, we conduct initial damage estimates and the different groups that are responsible for infrastructure or other things turn that information into the Office of Emergency Management.”
Cleanup efforts in L.A. County will largely involve Public Works, LADWP and private insurance companies. In total, according to Public Works, there are nine agencies affected by the recovery efforts.
McGowan said repairs will involve fixing roads, clearing landslides and clearing debris; and may cost the county upwards of $100 million. During the storm, L.A. County Public Works responded to nearly 100 calls for debris clearing, 34 calls for flooding, and nearly 200 traffic-related calls such as for downed signs or signals that stopped working. A gaping sinkhole opened up in Chatsworth, plunging two vehicles into the earth. More than 500 mudslides have been recorded across the state, according to data from the California Geological Survey.
On Jan. 14, President Biden approved an Expedited Major Disaster Declaration, which frees up federal aid to help with recovery efforts. The declaration affected 41 California counties, including LA County, with individual assistance offered to Merced, Monterey, Sacramento, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara and Santa Cruz counties, which were particularly hard-hit.
According to experts, the recent atmospheric river system was unusually strong, and the state hasn’t seen a similar one in years.
“This particular series of events over the last few weeks has been really unusual in terms of the frequency of storm systems and also their intensity,” said Greg Carbin, chief of the Weather Prediction Center Forecast Operations branch of the National Weather Service. “2017 was pretty active at the beginning of the year. That seems to be the last time we saw something of similar nature.”
Southern California residents can put away their rain jackets, though – the National Weather Service shows sunny skies and dry weather for at least the next 10 days.