With clean up efforts continuing following last week’s storm and another storm on the way, Calaveras County Office of Emergency Services (OES) Director John Osbourn issued a proclamation of a local emergency on Tuesday afternoon.
“It was prudent to declare a disaster,” Osbourn said on Wednesday. “We had been heavily impacted in the first storm and we were still cleaning up and trying to recover from that storm. With the looming threat of another storm, we felt that it was appropriate.”
Fortunately, Tuesday’s storm was less intense than expected, Osbourn said.
“That was a welcome break,” he said.
If approved by the state, the declaration would allow the county to be reimbursed for some expenses resulting from response and recovery during the storms.
“The declaration of a local emergency does a few things. One of the things that we did in that was we requested California Disaster Assistance Act assistance from the state, and they will evaluate the costs and the damage that was incurred to see if they are going to grant those funds,” Osbourn said. “In a response where we have vehicles and snow plows and tractors and fire engines and side-by-side UTV units out responding … (and) the extra staffing that was brought in to augment the regular crews that were already on duty, that comes with a cost, and it is our hope that the governor will declare and assist us in the cost recovery of that.”
The proclamation notes that “conditions of extreme peril to the safety of persons and property have arisen in Calaveras County” due to the storms.
“(T)he conditions caused by the winter storms in Calaveras County, by reason of their magnitude, create extreme peril to the safety of persons and property, will impact significant County and community operations, including critical public infrastructure and services, and will require the provision of additional public safety and emergency services beyond the immediate capabilities of local resources, services, personnel, equipment, and facilities,” the proclamation reads. “It is requested that the county of Calaveras receive all available response and recovery assistance from the State of California and its agencies as deemed appropriate by the Governor of California.”
The declaration will need to be ratified by the county board of supervisors, Osbourn said.
“It is on calendar to be considered at the next meeting, which is Feb. 9,” he said.
On Jan. 29, Gov. Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency in Monterey and San Luis Obispo counties due to the storm, and neighboring Tuolumne County declared a local emergency the same day.
Osbourn said that things were “looking up” in the areas heavily impacted by the storm, and that “our hope is that we’ll be able to have everything widened out and appropriately cleared in the next day or two.”
Public works has been operating snow plows around the clock since last week, Osbourn said.
“Part of the issue that we ran across with the first storm is it was really wet, heavy snow, and some of our smaller plows just physically could not move the snow in an adequate manner,” he said. “We reached out to some partners and secured some larger equipment that’s out working now.”
On Wednesday at 5 p.m., Pacific Gas & Electric Co. (PG&E) Spokesperson Megan McFarland reported that the number of customers currently experiencing outages in Calaveras County was 2,360, including 2,278 customers in Arnold.
“We have 53 crews working in that area today to make repairs and address 22 separate outages impacting Arnold,” she said. “The estimated time of restoration for those outages is Friday and Saturday.”
Osbourn said that he felt that local agencies had worked together well to address impacts from the storm.
“I’m extremely proud of the responding agencies,” he said. “The responding agencies came together and worked seamlessly together in the face of some pretty serious adversities.”
The community came together as well by checking on neighbors and sharing supplies.
“That’s the kind of community spirit that is encouraging for responders to see,” he said. “Helping one another, especially in an emergency, is of great benefit to everyone. We saw quite a lot of that, and it was heartwarming to the responders to see that.”
Osbourn advised residents and visitors in the higher elevations to make sure that they have adequate supplies and a plan in place in case of an emergency.
“If you’re planning to be in the upper country above the snowline, make sure that you have sufficient food and fuel, a way to keep yourself warm, plenty of water, and that you have a plan if you find yourself in a position without power or heat and need to spend a few days snowed in.”
Information on COVID-19, power outages, fires, weather, evacuations and air quality can be found at the Community Information Center webpage, which can be accessed from a link on the county’s homepage. Calaveras OES also posts important information for the public on its Facebook and Twitter pages.