Armed with new details on last week's flood damage, county supervisors declared a local state of emergency Thursday to allow maintenance crews to speed cleanup and repair work.
The county's declaration gives officials greater flexibility to undertake repair projects by easing regulations that normally require low-bid work awards and approval by the Board of Supervisors, among other requirements.
As a result, work such as the $150,000 repair of a severed bridge leading from Edinger Avenue to the Sunset Marina in Huntington Beach can begin in days, officials said. And the county and residents can apply for federal and state relief money and low-interest loans.
The emergency proclamation, first declared last week by Board of Supervisors Chairman Roger R. Stanton, was extended through March 5 by the board's 3-0 vote in Thursday's special session.
It came as county officials released new figures showing that Laguna Beach reported $3.9 million in losses, the most local damage from the storms.
Officials estimate losses of $9.76 million countywide to public and private property--with that total expected to rise.
The county's proclamation "offers us a dose of help that we needed," said Fausto Reyes, manager of the county Fire Department's environmental management division. "It acts as kind of an umbrella of protection for the whole county."
The county has used emergency declarations with increasing frequency in recent years to deal with potential and actual disasters. In early 1990, for instance, the county declared three emergencies at once: the Mediterranean fruit fly infestation, the Huntington Beach oil spill and an outbreak of measles.
On Wednesday, Gov. Pete Wilson extended the state of emergency from the storms to include Orange County, and several local cities have declared their own emergencies.
While the county did not sustain the level of damage or loss of life that neighbors to the north did, the pounding rains here did close roads, damage homes and businesses, and threaten creeks, sewer lines and flood control channels, with residents running for sandbags.
In Laguna Beach, the rains wiped out a $500,000 bridge leading to a sewage treatment plant and caused other heavy damage. Other cities with high losses included Anaheim, Buena Park, Dana Point and Santa Ana, according to a county report given to supervisors Thursday.
But officials said they do not believe that local damage was as bad as from 1980 or 1983 storms.
As Supervisor Roth said at Thursday's session, it was a "godsend" for the county that rain on Saturday was not heavier.
"I guess we're fortunate to be in Orange County," Roth said, "when you look at what's happened in Ventura and Los Angeles counties."
County and city crews in Orange County are still trying to clear much of the debris and repair the damage from the recent series of rainstorms that ended last week. Here's an account, released Thursday, of those cities reporting the heaviest losses from the storms--including damaged homes, flooded facilities, overtime personnel, sandbagging and other costs:
City Amount Laguna Beach $3.90 million Buena Park 1.55 million Anaheim 1.03 million Santa Ana 448,000 Dana Point 350,000 County government 1.7 million
Estimated Orange County total, public and private: $9.76 million (expected to rise)
Source: Orange County Fire Department, environmental management division