Gov. Seeks U.S. Aid After Quake
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger asked President Bush on Wednesday to declare San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara counties federal disaster areas after the Dec. 22 magnitude 6.5 San Simeon earthquake, which killed two women and caused extensive damage on the Central Coast.
“The San Simeon earthquake, which was felt from San Francisco all the way to Los Angeles, left behind destruction that will take months if not years to rebuild and to repair,” the governor said in a statement released by his office Wednesday. “Given the extent of the damage, federal assistance is necessary to help individuals and the region recover.”
San Luis Obispo County officials estimate that the tab for damage in the county has surpassed $222 million. Santa Barbara County’s damage estimates are considerably lower at $10 million, according to county emergency officials, but the small city of Guadalupe was among the worst hit. Guadalupe is in northern Santa Barbara County, near where the Santa Maria River reaches the Pacific Ocean.
The governor’s action is a necessary first step before the Bush administration decides whether to release funds to the counties. A decision is expected within days.
“We’ve worked very closely with [the Federal Emergency Management Agency] every step of the way,” said Eric Lamoureux, spokesman for the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services. “We certainly hope the assistance comes soon so that we can start getting people back on their feet and checks into their hands.”
Although the quake’s epicenter was just east of the community of San Simeon on San Luis Obispo County’s north coast, the force of the quake moved eastward and struck unreinforced masonry buildings in Paso Robles and Atascadero. Two women were crushed to death by debris when fleeing the most badly damaged building in downtown Paso Robles.
The temblor left some communities with mild damage but struck others much harder. The oceanfront community of Oceano, for example, sustained broken water and gas mains and more than $2 million in damage to its sewer plant even though the town is 55 miles south of the quake’s epicenter.
The biggest damage estimate reported so far has been for Atascadero City Hall, a seven-story, 80-year-old building, which is expected to cost $20 million to repair. City officials have set up a temporary city hall in an old pizza parlor.
Damage to one Paso Robles school was estimated at $13 million.
Schwarzenegger has asked for public agency and individual relief from FEMA.
One program could provide immediate help for individuals in the form of $5,100 in repair assistance, $10,200 in replacement assistance or a single emergency disaster assistance of $25,600.
Federal lawmakers, including Rep. Bill Thomas (R-Bakersfield) and Sen. Barbara Boxer are expected to tour the area this week to get a firsthand look at the damage.
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