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California Storm, Flood Damage Could Top $1 Billion, Governor's Office
by Pam Wright and Ada Carr
The cost to repair California's storm and flood-damaged roads, dams and
other critical infrastructure could top $1 billion, Gov. Jerry Brown's
finance director, Michael Cohen, said Friday.
According to the Associated Press, this comes on top of a $6 billion
annual backlog of repairs for roads, highways and bridges that leaders
can't agree on a way to fund.
There are many local communities that have already drained their
emergency budgets and are seeking millions in aid from state and federal
On top of emergency road repairs, which more than doubles the budgeted
amount reserved for emergencies, Gov. Brown said Friday that California
has $187 billion in unmet needs for water and transportation
infrastructure, noting that tax increases may be required although he
wasn't prepared to offer "the full answer" to raising enough money to
shore up infrastructure.
Some of the areas with the costliest damage include a section of
mountain highway between Sacramento and South Lake Tahoe that buckled,
with repairs estimated to cost $6.5 million.
In Big Sur, a bridge on Highway 1 has crumbled beyond repair and will be
closed for up to a year for repairs. Until it is rebuilt, visitors can
drive up to view the rugged coastline, then turn back, according to AP.
The tally also includes $595 million to clean up mudslides and repair
state highways and as much as $200 million to repair the Oroville Dam
spillway, where nearly 200,000 were evacuated last week amidst fears of
Meanwhile, state and federal workers have joined farmers with tractors
to stave off any chain-reaction failure of rural levees protecting farms
and farm towns in the wake of several powerful storms that crippled
California in recent weeks with flooding.
The struggle to spot and shore up weak areas in nearly 1,600 miles of
levees in the Central Valley is an around-the-clock endeavor, Rex
Osborn, spokesman for emergency operations in San Joaquin County – one
of the nation's main farm and dairy counties just east of San Francisco
– told the Associated Press.
"There's a flood fight taking place at a dozen different places right
now," Osborn said about the levees in his county.
"If they just hold and do their job," Osborn said. "But if one thing
throws it off ..."
Some estimate the repairs necessary to repair battered levees could cost
billions. Northern California has seen more than twice the normal amount
of winter rainfall, breaking a five-year drought.
On Thursday, some of the 50,000 San Jose residents who were urged to
leave their homes Wednesday were permitted to return as northern
California continues to deal with the consequences of record flooding.
"It felt like an apocalypse," resident Gloria Najar told the Associated
Press. "It was unreal."
Despite losing almost everything in her garage, Najar said she considers
herself lucky since her second-floor condominium remained dry. As she
disposed of the damaged items, she said she was thinking of nearby homes
that were flooded "all the way to the roof."
Of the 14,000 placed under a mandatory evacuation earlier in the week,
two-thirds were allowed to return to their homes Thursday. Another 3,000
remain under a mandatory evacuation order, reports AP.
Local authorities cautioned residents about hygiene and the handling of
food that may have come into contact with dirty flood water, according
to the AP.
"The water is not safe," said San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo. "There is
contamination in this water and the contamination runs the gamut."
(MORE: Another Round of Rain on the Way for California)
On Wednesday, Liccardo acknowledged that residents were not properly
notified to evacuate during the emergency.
"If the first time a resident is aware that they need to get out of
their home is when they see a firefighter in a boat, that's a failure,"
he said during a news conference. "We are assessing what happened in
"We've got to address the needs of the families who have been displaced
first," Liccardo added. "We'll have a lot of time to analyze what went
The flooding that resulted from a series of atmospheric rivers filled
Anderson Reservoir to capacity. Coyote Creek quickly swelled to four
feet above flood level, cresting at 14.4 feet around 3 p.m. Tuesday in
downtown San Jose, easily breaking a 95-year-old record of 12.8 feet set
in 1922, according to the San Jose Mercury News.
Resident Sandy Moll said she had prepared for about a foot of water, but
the flooding spilled over sandbags stacked 3 feet high and broke down
her back door. Moll told the Mercury News that she was angry at the lack
"I'm seething," she said. "It's the lack of information and forewarning
when they had to have known. They never even said you need to prepare
for a major flood."
"The city dropped the ball on making sure that people were notified of
the potential impact of this flood," resident Jean-Marie White, whose
house and backyard were flooded, told the Associated Press. "Nobody had
Another resident, Julie Smalls, said there was no warning from the water
authority or the city that the flooding would be so dramatic. Her
backyard, which slopes down to the creek, was submerged in about 20 feet
of water and eventually flooded her basement.
"Had we been made aware of the severity of what was coming our way, we
would have done a whole lot more to get stuff out of our basement," said
San Joaquin County Office of Emergency Services spokesman Tim Daly said
the water released from the Don Pedro Reservoir earlier this week isn't
expected to spill over the levees but will likely increase pressure on
them, causing possible breaks in any weak places.
Farther West, San Jose declared a local emergency earlier this week
after record flooding from the Coyote Creek submerged a neighborhood,
forcing emergency crews in rescue boats to save 246 residents trapped in
their homes, according to the Mercury News.
An Orland, California, woman was killed when she ignored warning signs
of flooding and proceeded onto a flooded roadway, officials said. Her
car was swept away into a creek before disappearing. She was one of
eight people killed in connection with the "atmospheric rivers" that
have plagued the state in recent days.