Newsletter: Essential California: The emergency warnings that never came

Volunteer members of an El Dorado County search-and-rescue team look for human remains in Paradise, Calif., after the Camp fire.
(Sudhin Thanawala / AP)

Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It’s Wednesday, Nov. 21, and here’s what’s happening across California:


More than 140 people have died in California over the last 13 months from various calamities, ranging from the fires in wine country to the mudslides in Montecito. In many of these disasters, officials have acknowledged flaws in the evacuation plans, including the failure to use the latest technology to broadcast Amber Alert-style warnings on cellphones ahead of deadly disasters. Experts say more needs to be done to get the word out. Los Angeles Times

— With 870 people still reported as missing, some fear that rain will wash away the remains of loved ones. Los Angeles Times


Paradise narrowed its main road by two lanes despite past gridlock during a major wildfire. Los Angeles Times

These ashes have a story to tell: Building assessment teams examine the devastation of the Camp fire. Los Angeles Times

California’s costs to fight two deadly wildfires that ignited less than two weeks ago have already topped $118 million — a sizable financial hit to a program that needed a cash infusion just two months ago. Los Angeles Times

Residents of Lincoln, a suburb of Sacramento, are putting aside their own Thanksgiving Day plans to serve meals to those who’ve been displaced by the widespread destruction from the Camp fire. NBC News

— Why Pepperdine stays put when wildfires rage. Curbed LA

— More than 17,000 buildings burned in Northern California. Here’s what that looks like from above. Los Angeles Times

— Perspective: Power companies must do more to fireproof their equipment, but it won’t be cheap, and customers may pay. Los Angeles Times

Upset brewing?


Alex Villanueva, the retired cop who’s commanded a startling lead in the election for Los Angeles County sheriff, edged closer to triumph Tuesday, stretching his margin to nearly 87,000 votes ahead of incumbent Jim McDonnell. Almost 261,000 ballots still need to be counted. Los Angeles Times

The forever train

The land acquisitions for California’s bullet-train project are taking a long time. Eight years ago, the California High-Speed Rail Authority estimated it would cost $332 million to acquire properties for the route spanning the Central Valley’s orchards, vineyards, dairies and cities. The process, however, has proven far more legally tedious, politically painful and expensive than initially thought. Such complications are part of the reason the project is 13 years behind schedule and at $44 billion over budget. Los Angeles Times

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A hero: Meet the man behind the @VCScanner Twitter account. Los Angeles Times

Election fraud case: Nine people face felony charges in connection with a fraud scheme in which they offered cash or cigarettes to homeless people on skid row in downtown Los Angeles in exchange for hundreds of fake or forged signatures on ballot petitions and voter registration forms. Los Angeles Times

Aaron Sorkin remembers William Goldman: “He was the dean of American screenwriters and still is.” Los Angeles Times


How to be sure you’ll get a parking space at LAX for the holidays: planning, a reservation and maybe a bit of luck. Los Angeles Times


Wider mission? The Trump administration plans to grant U.S. troops on the Mexican border the authority to use force to help protect Border Patrol officers, defense officials said. It would be a significant widening of a mission already criticized as politically motivated rather than a national security priority. Los Angeles Times

Plus: A federal judge has temporarily blocked the Trump administration from denying asylum to immigrants who cross the border at places other than official points of entry. Los Angeles Times



Dipping his toe: San Francisco billionaire Tom Steyer has made his biggest move yet toward a potential 2020 presidential bid, laying out a progressive policy platform and announcing a tour of five key primary states. Los Angeles Times

Back in chambers: Councilman Jose Huizar returned to the L.A. City Council for his first council meeting since FBI agents raided his home and office, but stayed mum on the FBI probe. Los Angeles Times

Los Angeles City Councilman Jose Huizar, right, hugs Councilman Marqueece Harris-Dawson during Huizar's first appearance on the council floor since his home and offices were raided by the FBI this month.
(Katie Falkenberg / Los Angeles Times)


A wow story: The Trump administration’s own analyses indicate many of its new regulations will hurt vulnerable Americans. Los Angeles Times

Running late: Metro’s $2-billion rail line from Mid-City to the South Bay will miss its 2019 deadline to open. Los Angeles Times

Stark disparity: The homeless crisis is getting worse in America’s richest cities. Bloomberg



Coming soon? A coalition of bail bond industry groups has taken a major step toward blocking California’s historic overhaul of the bail system, submitting more than enough signatures for a statewide referendum on the law in 2020. Los Angeles Times

Behind bars: A former Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputy was sentenced Monday to more than 17 years in federal prison for his role in a drug trafficking scheme in which he charged up to $250,000 to protect large shipments of drugs being transported out of state, officials said. Los Angeles Times

In San Diego: “Two whistleblowers say dangerous medical research was performed on veterans suffering from alcoholism and liver disease at the VA San Diego Healthcare System.” INewSource



For your health: Don’t eat romaine lettuce, warns the CDC, amid another E. coli outbreak. Los Angeles Times

The new normal: Life on a shrinking planet. The New Yorker


Hollywoodland: With “Ralph Breaks the Internet,” Walt Disney Animation Studios enters a new chapter in its history. Los Angeles Times

Yum! This new L.A. museum will be completely devoted to Mexican food. Los Angeles Times


That explains it: In a “Monday Night Football” game that featured more than 100 points and more than 1,000 yards of offense, Rams running back Todd Gurley was relatively quiet. Here’s why. Los Angeles Times

Ponder this: A website called Gossip Cop fact-checks gossip. Who will fact-check Gossip Cop? New York Times

Big moment: “The parent company of Carl’s Jr. says it will be closing its Anaheim office and moving those operations to Franklin, Tenn., where the company is now based, effectively ending a California legacy that started when the chain was founded in 1941 in Los Angeles.” Orange County Register

Who knew? An oral history of the late actor Garry Shandling’s secret basketball pickup game. ESPN



Los Angeles area: rain, 69, Wednesday; partly cloudy, 67, Thursday. San Diego: rain, 69, Wednesday; partly cloudy, 67, Thursday. San Francisco area: rain, 61, Wednesday; rain, 58, Thursday. San Jose: rain, 61, Wednesday; partly cloudy, 61, Thursday. Sacramento: rain, 57, Wednesday; rain, 56, Thursday. More weather is here.


Today’s California memory comes from Dianne Butler:


“I grew up on a farm an hour from Sacramento. I remember the Mexican workers coming to work with their green cards giving them permission to be there. We looked forward to their children joining us in school. They weeded and picked the fruit so the markets had the tastiest vine-ripened produce. I know those people were hardworking, family-loving individuals, and we miss them and the taste of vine-ripened vegetables and fruit.”

If you have a memory or story about the Golden State, share it with us. Send us an email to let us know what you love or fondly remember about our state. (Please keep your story to 100 words.)

Please let us know what we can do to make this newsletter more useful to you. Send comments, complaints and ideas to Benjamin Oreskes and Shelby Grad. Also follow them on Twitter @boreskes and @shelbygrad.