Californians urged to brace for storms despite drought-like condition
By Cesar Antonio Nucum Jr.
SAN FRANCISCO – It has been years that California has been suffering from drought as a result of rains that have not been coming enough to sustain the water needs of Californians and that the recent rare storms were most welcome that nobody had to take a raincheck when they all came one after another.
Indeed, even though it rained cats and dogs, most were relieved and felt as right as rain that they didn’t mind it rained in their parades to get some relief from the drought condition the state has been in for years now.
It was sad though that there were places that got more than their share of the storms resulting to damages to property and even lives.
And the assessment to the damage and preparedness that California are topics that merited a timely discussion among authorities from the California Office of Emergency Services (CalOES) and the state departments of Public Health, Social Services and Insurance on efforts to help Californians recover from the “atmospheric rivers” that have deluged the West Coast.
In a media briefing dubbed “Staying Alert and Safe Through the Storms: It’s Not Too Late to Be Prepared,” presented by CalOES and Listos California and co-hosted by Ethnic Media Services and California Black Media, experts working on the frontlines provided an overview of the impact of the storms and what to expect in the near future; a guide for how to keep yourself and your loved ones safe at home or on the road in extreme weather; where flood victims can go for recovery resources.
Among the experts in the panel included Assistant Director of Crisis Communication and Public Affairs at the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services (Cal OES). Diana Crofts-Pelayo, Chief of the Office of Access and Functional Needs at the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services Luis “Vance” Taylor CDC Career Epidemiology Field Officer assigned to the California Department of Public Health. Jason Wilken, Director of the California Department of Social Services Kim Johnson and Deputy Insurance Commissioner for Consumer Services & Market Conduct Branch, CA Department of Insurance Tony Cignarale,
Crofts-Pelayo of CalOES underscored that “every Californians deserves culturally-competent education to prepare for response to and recover to disaster including flooding” and welcomed the federal government’s recent approval of “an expedited major disaster declaration” for three California counties — Merced, Sacramento and Santa Cruz — qualifying them for extra assistance beyond what those local governments can provide.
“California as a state has engaged a trusted network of community-based organizations, tribal government, and community response team across the state to provide accessible in-language information during these trying times,” Pelayo said, adding that flooding of homes, businesses and communities and included levee breaches, mudslides, hurricane-force winds and even a tornado making the storms as among the most deadline natural disasters in the State’s modern history where at least 20 people have lost their lives.
To help alleviate the sad situation, California is reportedly deploying numerous resources to counter the impacts of the winter storms that have taken at least 20 lives.
For his part, Taylor assured that grants are available especially for those living in the approved counties of Merced, Sacramento and Santa Cruz although they anticipate that other counties will also be brought in.
“If you live in one of the three approved counties, you’re eligible to apply for federal assistance from FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency),” said Taylor.
Grant money is available to replace essential items such as furniture or durable medical equipment, eyeglasses, hearing aids and other assistive devices, or to help with housing, paying for rent and other needs.
The phone number to apply for such help is (800) 621-3362 while FEMA also has a mobile app and online portals, available in multiple languages, at disasterassistance.gov.
“If you have access or functional needs, make an evacuation plan. Follow guidance from local authorities. If they say evacuate, you gotta go,” advised Taylor.
Dr. Wilken cautioned those already impacted by floodwaters not to allow children to play with toys or anything that floodwater has gotten wet until those items can be disinfected.
“If you must be in contact with floodwater, wear rubber gloves and boots. Check with your local water authorities to be sure tap water is safe to use or has to be boiled or not used at all.,” Wilken recommended. “It’s important to get those wet items out of your home and dry that home as quickly as possible.”
The CDC has more information on flood safety at cdc.gov/disasters/floods/after.html.