Since late December 2022, California has been experiencing the impact of an atmospheric river, a meteorological phenomenon repeatedly driving moisture and resulting storm activity into a specific area of the state. The storms have brought approximately 24 trillion gallons of rain to California since they began – or 8.56 inches of rain for every acre in the state. The Bay Area alone has received an average of 13.3 inches of rain during this period. Near-hurricane-force winds have also blasted coastal and central areas of the state, leading to power cuts far inland. In addition, several tornados were reported south of Sacramento early on January 10. As of today, January 27, the storm is being blamed for 20 fatalities. More than 16,000 individuals were under evacuation orders in six counties throughout the state – with over 45,000 being under evacuation orders at some point in the last several weeks. Nearly 850 individuals remain in 25 emergency shelters throughout the state. Highways and roads across the region were also impacted by flooding, landslides, and trees, with several highways and important access roads shut down.
San Francisco meanwhile pursued an aggressive strategy of evicting encampments of individuals experiencing homelessness days before the severe storms arrived, violating a court order preventing such action. Items disposed of by the city included first aid and survival tools needed during the upcoming storms. Even so, the city’s Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing opened four temporary shelters accepting walk-up referrals during the storms.
This week, the storms began to wind down and efforts have turned to disaster recovery. Crews in California will be working to reopen roadways and clear piles of rock and mud. President Biden approved a disaster declaration for California, permitting the delivery of aid, including grants for housing and home repairs and loans for those with uninsured property loss. Disaster Recovery Centers in approximately 10 counties have opened or are planned to open to assist disaster survivors with applying for available assistance.
State and Local
Individual assistance from FEMA is now available to homeowners and renters in several Alabama counties, including Autauga, Coosa, Dallas, Elmore, and Hale counties.
Local churches and community-based organizations in the city of Selma have stepped up to assist those impacted by a tornado that struck the city earlier this month.
The Selma tornado is serving as a reminder that those with the lowest incomes often face the worst impacts from disasters, with many low-income residents now being forced to find housing in Selma’s challenging real estate market.
In California, local communities are often the quickest to step up following disasters like the recent catastrophic flooding – including community groups in northern California.
The Silicon Valley Community Foundation has started a relief fund to help recovery efforts created following recent storms and wildfires. Funds collected will be prioritized for efforts in Santa Clara and San Mateo counties.
In collaboration with the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services, county governments and FEMA opened a disaster recovery center in Santa Cruz and Sacramento County. Individuals impacted by the recent storms are encouraged to visit the center to receive information regarding available assistance. Hundreds awaited the opening of an additional center in Merced County. A center in Monterey County has registered 1,400 families for assistance since it opened on January 21.
Residents of Acampo and San Joaquin County have been allowed home after catastrophic flooding impacted their area, but many are returning with significant financial woes.
United Survivors for Disaster Relief and the Institute for Disaster Mental Health will be conducting a workshop on mental health support for disaster survivors in Ft. Meyers Beach on the evening of January 27.
FEMA is opening another disaster recovery center in Lee County, Florida, to assist Hurricane Ian survivors. Although the deadline to apply for aid has passed, people affected can still receive updates on past applications and learn about the appeals process.
In the Florida barrier islands, the extreme impact of Hurricane Ian is presenting challenges to the visions of two communities about themselves.
In Panama City, Florida, a voluntary buyout program for homeowners saw a homeowner and the owner of a rental property as the first two participants. The program is administered by the city government with funding from HUD.
President Biden approved a major disaster declaration for seven Georgia counties after severe storms impacted the region earlier this month.
The onslaught of deadly floods and tornados is worsening Kentucky’s housing shortage. Housing advocates are asking lawmakers to put $300 million into the Affordable Housing Emergency Action Recovery Trust Fund (AHEART). Currently, much of the available housing stock in the state is more than 50 years old and requires maintenance before it can shelter the more than 800 Kentucky residents currently living in state parks and travel trailers. The AHEART funds could be used to construct or maintain as many as 1,500 homes. Adrienne Bush of the Homeless and Housing Coalition of Kentucky – a state partner of NLIHC – believes that the state should do more to equip local governments with the resources to respond promptly. Relying on FEMA for emergency aid is untenable because the agency does not fully replace what has been lost.
In a series of profiles, Katie Myers of WKU Public Radio shows how families impacted by catastrophic flooding in Eastern Kentucky last year continue to struggle through the recovery process. While residents of the region have helped each other – some by setting up impromptu assistance distribution centers – many continue to reckon with the financial and emotional realities of rebuilding.
Many individuals in Breathitt County are facing a choice: do they wait for a full recovery to occur, or do they try to leave the place they love? Officials estimate that the region needs at least 2,300 new or rebuilt houses to rebound.
New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy announced the approval of an action plan for distributing more than $228 million in HUD Community Development Block Grant-Disaster Relief (CDBG-DR) funding for recovery from Hurricane Ida, which hit the state in September 2021. The plan includes funds for rental assistance, displaced households, and flood mitigation.
Many Hurricane Sandy survivors being targeted for clawbacks from the federal government – which claims that too much assistance was disbursed after the storm – felt relief at the recent announcement that such efforts would be halted indefinitely in a victory for disaster recovery advocates.
Richard Trumper, the director of disaster recovery at the North Carolina Office of State Budget and Management, will move to the state’s Department of Public Safety as a senior advisor for disaster recovery. The newly created position will assist ReBuild NC – the state’s disaster recovery program that was harangued by lawmakers earlier this year.
A legal aid organization in Puerto Rico, DHRC member Ayuda Legal Puerto Rico, has found that the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and Hurricane Fiona have disproportionately impacted women, many of whom were threatened with displacement amid a staggering 300% rate in evictions between 2021 and 2022.
A tornado ripped through parts of southern Harris County on January 24, damaging buildings, nursing homes, schools, and infrastructure. As of the time of writing, only one injury has been reported.