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Price tag to repair damage caused by storms in L.A. County? $100 million and counting

An aerial view of a horizontal road with a large sink hole in the middle and a car inside it.
Two vehicles fell into a sinkhole on Iverson Road in Chatsworth on Jan. 10. Storm damage repairs in L.A. County could cost more than $100 million, according to county officials.
(Myung J. Chun / Los Angeles Times)
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Repairs in Los Angeles County after a string of storms battered the state for weeks could cost more than $100 million, according to county officials.

A preliminary assessment estimated the cost to be $100 million for repairs for public property, but county spokesperson Emily Montanez said that number has already gone up and is likely to continue climbing.

“This is a big-time crunch in the beginning because local counties and cities have to make a proclamation to make sure they’re eligible for reimbursement down the line,” said Montanez, the associate director for the county’s Office of Emergency Management. “This is a starting phase and over the next few months and years, the number will be more accurate. This was a large enough rain event, where yes, that $100-million figure will only continue to grow.”

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The total for repairs across the state could be as much as $1 billion, authorities said.

The estimate includes the cost for debris removal, emergency protective measures, debris basins, roads, bridges and public buildings, Montanez said.

Residents are still working with insurance companies or vendors to determine the scope of the damage to their private property and those figures haven’t been included in the price tag yet.

President Biden approved an Expedited Major Disaster Declaration last week, ordering federal aid to be provided to recovery efforts in areas of California that were impacted by the storms. All 58 counties in the state are able to access hazard mitigation assistance, meaning that state and local governments and specific nonprofits can get federal aid to reduce risk to life and property.

President Biden, joined by Gov. Gavin Newsom and U.S. Sen. Alex Padilla, tours areas along the California coast damaged by storms.

State and local governments can be reimbursed up to 75% by the federal government for the cost of repair and other necessities. Federal assistance will also provide individuals programs based on need and how much residents have.

In Merced, Sacramento, Santa Cruz, Monterey, San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara counties, residents will have federal assistance to repair or replace damaged property; nonprofit organizations in those counties will get federal aid to conduct debris removal and other emergency work.

In L.A. County, much of the damage was done to roads and bridges, as well as to the cities near foothills where there were recent fires and mud flows.

County representatives will continue to go out in teams in the next few months to conduct assessment, according to Montanez.

Experts say California’s recent series of storms was no more severe than what the state has experienced in the last century.

Another storm is expected to move across the Central Coast on Thursday, dropping rainfall amounts as much as nearly a quarter of an inch in the foothills and mountains and a tenth of an inch everywhere else, according to the National Weather Service. As the system continues to move south, it’ll lose much of its steam and will result in very little if any rain in southeastern Santa Barbara County and western L.A. County.

A coastal flood advisory has been issued for the Central Coast until at least Friday because of morning high tides that could reach as high at 7.8 feet before peaking between Friday and Sunday, according to the weather service. Winds could reach about 29 mph while waves are expected to range from 6 to 10 feet along the Central Coast and 4 to 7 feet near the Los Angeles coast.

The tides could result in minor coastal flooding and erosion through the week and inundate low-lying areas with sea water. The weather service has advised residents to protect flood-prone property and to refrain from driving into flooded areas or around barricades.

Montanez said that crews conducting repairs and clean up are constantly monitoring weather conditions to prepare for any such events.

“Being a coastal area, that’s a concern,” she added. “They do a good job of coordinating with the weather service to ensure they’re getting accurate information and the likelihood that we’ll experience events like that. The county is well-prepared.”

A series of atmospheric river storms that dropped record-breaking rain and unleashed chaos across California will end with a whimper this week.


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