As California weathers more than a dozen atmospheric rivers during the past few months, the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services has led a response involving nearly every part of state government to the widespread storm impacts. As the work turns to recovery, thousands of Cal OES and other state agency employees continue to be actively engaged in local communities statewide.
On March 28, the Governor of California Gavin Newsom requested a Presidential Major Disaster Declaration to bolster the emergency response and recovery in several counties throughout the state, including the Monterey County town of Pajaro.
The Disaster Declaration request encompasses the communities impacted by flooding, snow, mudslides, avalanches, and debris flows that resulted from storms beginning February 21. Counties may be added as further damage assessments are conducted.
Approved earlier this week, the Presidential Major Disaster Declaration will help people in the impacted counties through eligibility for programs and support that can include housing assistance, food aid, counseling, medical services and legal services. The request includes public assistance to help state, tribal and local governments with ongoing emergency response costs. The request also includes hazard mitigation, which helps state and local governments reduce the risks and impacts of future disasters.
Even before the disaster declaration was being considered, the process of recovery had already begun in many locations, including in Pajaro. Local authorities, state agencies and non-profit organizations, in partnership with Cal OES, continue to work together to address residents’ needs following severe localized flooding,
In addition to providing necessities such as food, water and shelter, the arduous task of debris cleanup and household hazardous waste removal is well underway. Teams of people are helping residents remove destroyed personal items and structural materials from each home. The items are brought to the curb, where different people sort, collect and haul away the destroyed materials. Under the direction of the California Environmental Protection Agency’s Department of Toxic Substances Control, extra attention is given to potentially harmful or unhealthy household chemicals, including paint, cleaners, pesticides, gasoline, propane cylinders, etc …
In conjunction with Monterey County, Cal OES is also facilitating a local assistance center (LAC) for local residents. Located at Veteran’s Memorial Hall in Watsonville (just over the bridge from Pajaro), LAC visitors enjoy the benefit of having several state and local agencies, as well as non-profit organizations, in one centralized location. State services include: Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), California Department of Public Health (CDPH), the Employment Development Department (EDD), State Contractors Licensing Board (SCLB), and others. On-site translation services are available for no charge. With the Disaster Declaration approval, additional recovery centers offering federal assistance programs will soon be opening in the area.