RIVERSIDE – The Board of Supervisors today unanimously approved
a resolution declaring a state of emergency in Riverside County stemming from
the winter storm series that has caused millions of dollars in damage.
In a 5-0 vote without comment, the board signed off on Emergency
Management Department Director Bruce Barton’s request for recognition of the
emergency declaration that he proclaimed under his own authority on March 23.
The county’s head of emergency services can unilaterally declare a
local emergency anytime, but it must be formally ratified by the board within
seven business days in order to remain valid.
The board’s authorization of the declaration will enable the county to
apply for state and federal relief funds.
According to the EMD, the storm series that started in mid February
and continued almost weekly until the end of March due to jet stream-driven
“atmospheric rivers” flowing across California has caused an estimated $4.4
million in damage.
The estimate is derived from infrastructure impacts to county
facilities, farms, tribal land, special districts and school districts,
Among the worst impacts was a breach of the levee along the San
Jacinto River, according to the EMD.
The hole that developed allowed water to flood farmlands, the county
Flood Control & Water Conservation District said. The agency said that the
breach has since been sealed, but it’s requiring constant attention to fortify,
with fears that additional storms could compromise the levee again.
“Winter storms have brought unforeseen and unprecedented snow and
rainfall within multiple jurisdictions in the county that caused damage to
transportation, water conveyance systems and critical infrastructure,
delivering an imminent threat to life, property and the environment,”
according to the resolution.
Roads in cities and unincorporated communities countywide have been
washed out and flooded, prompting closures on numerous occasions. However, most
of those corridors have been repaired and are open.
In the San Bernardino National Forest, more than 50 dirt roads leading
to camping, hiking, hunting and other recreational sites were declared off
limits last month because of snow packs and other winter hazards.
They may not reopen until June, according to the U.S. Forest Service.
This winter’s storm series is similar to the one that walloped the
Inland Empire in 2019, though most of the damage then was due to back-to-back
storms during one week in February that caused significant flooding and debris
flows on state Routes 74, 111 and 243 near Idyllwild, Mountain Center and Palm
Springs. Mud and debris flows also damaged the Horsethief Canyon Storm Drain,
the Leach Canyon Dam and the McVicker Debris Basin.
California Gov. Gavin Newsom has signed emergency declarations five
times over the last month, covering 43 counties. According to the governor’s
office, $60 million has already been spent on direct aid and response
With the board’s ratification of the local emergency proclamation,
Riverside County will be included on the list of eligible recipients for future
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