President Joe Biden declares state of emergency for SLO County following winter storms

The Biden administration has declared a state of emergency for San Luis Obispo County and eight other California counties following severe winter storms.

On Saturday, President Joe Biden approved California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s request for a presidential major disaster declaration to “support ongoing recovery efforts following widespread flooding, mudslides and debris flows during early February storms,” the San Luis Obispo County Office of Emergency Services announced Monday.

The county agency estimates that local jurisdictions sustained approximately $700,000 in damage due to the storms.

According to the county Office of Emergency Services, a federal declaration of emergency is made “when local agencies require assistance beyond their capabilities to respond to recovery efforts.”

“The declaration makes federal public assistance available to help cover costs associated with response and recovery,” the emergency services department said in a news release.

Saturday’s declaration, which covers local agencies but not individuals, includes Butte, Glenn, Los Angeles, Monterey, Santa Barbara, Santa Cruz, Sutter and Ventura counties.

“This declaration will allow our county to recover more quickly,” said Scott Jalbert, SLO County emergency services director.

He said that the county agency will reach out to this week to “local agencies that experienced storm damages” and coordinate efforts with them.

How bad were winter storms in SLO County?

A series of atmospheric river-fueled storms slammed into the Central Coast this winter, bringing strong winds and heavy rains that filled three local reservoirs to overflowing.

In February, two rare tornadoes touched down in San Luis Obispo County, toppling trees, downing power lines and damaging buildings.

The region also saw widespread flooding and high surf.

Meanwhile, a trio of slides have blocked sections of Highway 1 near Big Sur.

In January 2023, debris flows closed the scenic highway at Paul’s Slide, about 20 miles north of the Monterey County line. That was followed by the Dolan Point and Regent slides this February.