California Storms Leave Billions of Dollars in Damage to Businesses, Homes and Infrastructure

ANTIOCHI, Calif. — As the Paradise Skating Roller Rink was preparing to host its New Year’s Eve party, floodwaters rushed in from a nearby creek, destroying the wooden floors and smashing through the walls of this San Francisco Bay Area suburb for decades. A business that had been operating closed for several months. .

“Mother Nature could have been a little better, but I think she has a head of her own,” general manager Bob Bruce said earlier this week. He was left hanging on the ceiling net.

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Across California, residents and businesses are picking up debris after being battered by some of the most devastating storms to hit the state in decades.From San Diego in the south to Sonoma in the north, nine atmospheres The river parade (named for the water that flows into the narrow area) has brought more rain than the last few years combined since Christmas.

Many welcomed the rain in the drought-hit state, but not for such a short period of time.Auckland saw nearly 17 inches of precipitation between December 26 and January 19 was recorded. That’s 89% of the normal annual total rainfall, and downtown Los Angeles received 1.82 inches of rain on January 14, breaking her previous daily rainfall record of 1.56 inches. I broke it. According to the Japan Meteorological Agency. The Sierra Nevada Mountains have been buried in over 15 feet of snow. At least 20 people were killed in the storm, officials said.

Much of the damage is still being assessed, but people working in industries ranging from tourism to agriculture have been affected, as have a variety of businesses that have been hit by floods and other damage. The storm also damaged public infrastructure.

Bob Bruce of the Paradise Skate Roller Rink in Antioch, Calif., said water warping the floor would shut it down for months.


Jim Carlton/Wall Street Journal

“The size and duration of these atmospheric rivers affect homes, businesses, vehicles, boats, agriculture, roads, bridges, levees, docks, piers, etc.,” said Adam Smith, a climate scientist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. It has affected infrastructure.

AccuWeather Inc. Chief Meteorologist Jonathan Porter estimates the total cost associated with storms at $31 billion to $34 billion, including lost economic output. About half of that amount came from property damage and infrastructure damage, with water causing the most problems, he said.

“When water infiltrates a home or business, it causes all sorts of problems to remove walls, floors and other materials,” Porter said.

Sacramento County officials said the storm caused about $123 million in damage, including trees knocked over homes in the capital’s old downtown.

President Biden confirmed the damage in Capitola, California, this week and issued a disaster declaration for several California counties.


Susan Walsh/Associated Press

In Los Angeles County, public property repairs will likely cost at least $100 million, officials said.

President Biden this week announced a federal disaster declaration for four counties in California, in addition to the three he announced last week. On Thursday, the president toured Santa Cruz County’s damaged waterfront, including the seaside resort of Capitola, where waves split a historic pier in two.

Under the declaration, individuals and businesses can apply for direct assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Dozens of other storm-affected counties are also seeking federal disaster assistance. Kathy Garino, spokeswoman for Calaveras County, population 47,000, said:

Garino said the county, located in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada, known for its gold rush history, is losing tourists as landslides have closed roads and damaged grapes in vineyards. Estimates of the total damage are still being compiled, she said.

In Sacramento, Calif., a river flooded this month, and county officials said the storm caused about $123 million in damage.


Fred Greaves/Reuters

FEMA officials have not yet responded to a request for comment.

The Small Business Administration is beginning to process low-interest loan applications for storm victims statewide, regardless of whether those affected are in official disaster areas.

In Antioquia, which is not included in the disaster declaration, Bruce said his roller rink business would likely be sold to the SBA to offset an estimated $200,000 cost to replace a 9,248-square-foot skate floor made of maple. He said the rink, which first opened in 1969 and employs 18 people, would be out of business for three to six months.

“We’ll be back, but it’s going to be tough,” Bruce said.

Tourism in California has been disrupted in places such as the Big Sur Coast, where landslides have blocked scenic Highway 1. More than 560 landslides have been reported statewide, including one partially blocking a mountainous area of ​​Interstate 5 in Southern California.

Waves whipped up by California’s “atmospheric rivers” have wreaked havoc on coastal towns such as Aptos and Capitola. WSJ’s Jim Carlton reports from a community where locals are picking up parts. Photo: Josh Edelson/AFP/Getty Images

Agriculture in California has also been affected. In Monterey County, officials estimate he lost $40 million to $50 million from flooded fields. In the Central Valley, farmers reported winds tore some almond trees and expressed concern about water damage to their roots.

But rain isn’t all bad for agriculture. Farmers have been hit hard by his three-year drought in California, making much of the water they receive from state and federally managed reservoirs unavailable. But it’s likely that we’ll get more water this year as reservoirs have been refilled due to the rains, said Chris Schering, senior adviser to the California Department of Agriculture.

“We would love to see more of it,” he said of the rain.

Similarly, Lake Tahoe’s ski resorts, which lost business over the weekend of Martin Luther King Jr. due to road closures, could benefit from huge snowpacks over the next few months, tourism said. said Andy Chapman, chief executive officer of the promotion group Travel North Tahoe Nevada. .

Write to Jim Carlton at

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