WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden is set to tour damage and be briefed on recovery efforts after devastating storms hit California in recent weeks, killing at least 20 people and causing destruction across 41 of the state’s 58 counties.
The president, accompanied by FEMA Administrator Deanne Criswell, Gov. Gavin Newsom and other state and local officials, will visit Thursday the storm-damaged Capitola Pier in Santa Cruz County, where he will meet with business owners and affected residents.
Biden will also meet with first responders and deliver remarks on supporting the state’s recovery at nearby Seacliff State Park.
“Over 500 FEMA and other federal personnel have already deployed to California to support response and recovery operations and are working side by side with the state to ensure all needs are indeed met on the ground,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said Wednesday.
Biden has already approved a major disaster declaration for the state, freeing up additional federal resources for recovery efforts. Hours ahead of the visit, he raised the level of federal assistance available even higher.
From Dec. 26 to Jan. 17, the entire state of California averaged 11.47 inches of rain and snow, according to the National Weather Service’s Weather Prediction Center, with some reports of up to 15 feet of snow falling over the three-week period in the highest elevations of the Sierra Nevada.
California gets much of its rain and snow in the winter from a weather phenomenon known as “atmospheric rivers” — long, narrow bands of water vapor that form over the ocean and flow through the sky.
California has been hit by nine atmospheric rivers since late December. The storms have relented in recent days, although forecasters were calling for light rain toward the end of this week followed by a dry period.
Associated Press writers Seth Borenstein in Washington and Adam Beam in Sacramento, California, contributed to this report.
Zeke Miller, The Associated Press