WASHINGTON- President Joe Biden visited California on Thursday to assess the recent extreme storms, surveying the damage and meeting with state and local officials.
California has been inundated with an onslaught of storms since December, which have caused dangerous flooding and led to near record-breaking rainfall in places like San Francisco. The storms have resulted in power outages, severe flooding and mudslides, consequently damaging roads, farmlands, businesses and homes. There have also been at least 20 confirmed fatalities from the storms.
Biden toured the damage in Santa Clara County and is planning to visit Santa Cruz County, where he will speak with business owners and local residents in Capitola, Calif. The Capitola Pier was badly damaged by the storms, destroying restaurants and other businesses in the process. He also will speak with first responders and state and local officials in Seacliff State Park, Aptos.
The California rainfall is the result of nine atmospheric rivers, or “long, concentrated regions in the atmosphere that transport moist air from the tropics to higher latitudes.” The combination of the moist air and high wind speeds triggers heavy rain and snow.
FEMA Administrator Deanne Criswell, who previously traveled to California to assess the storm aftermath, said the damage has totaled several hundred million dollars, but the total is expected to increase.
“When I talk to people on the ground, what they told me is that these storms are coming with hurricane strength winds. [The storms are] also making incredible storm surge-like conditions with surf. So they felt like it was being hit by hurricane after hurricane.”
Criswell said some communities saw their annual rainfall in one day. This comes after last year’s intense drought and extreme heat domes that worsen the effects of droughts.
“You had this very dry land that is now saturated, which is what has created a lot of the trees that have come down and the inability of the ground to absorb this water,” she said.
These storms have devastated crops and agriculture in the state. Though the extent of the damage is unknown, Criswell added that representatives from the Department of Agriculture were working with these communities.
Even after the storms subside, there could still be more damage to come. Criswell noted that the arrival of snowmelt season could pose a risk to dams and reservoirs. The state is working with the National Weather Service to monitor this situation, alongside the Army Corps of Engineers.
“[It] all depends on how fast it melts as to what the potential threats are going to be,” she said.