Padilla, Feinstein, Calvert, Lofgren Lead CA Delegation in Urging Biden Administration to Approve Major Disaster Declaration Following Tropical Storm Hilary
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, U.S. Senators Alex Padilla and Dianne Feinstein (both D-Calif.), along with Representatives Ken Calvert (R-Calif.-41) and Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.-18), led the entire California delegation in calling on the Biden Administration to grant Governor Gavin Newsom’s request for a major disaster declaration in response to the ongoing impacts of Tropical Storm Hilary.
Tropical Storm Hilary was the first tropical storm to make landfall in California since 1939, bringing extreme precipitation, high winds, severe flooding, and hazardous debris runoff. The storm also damaged essential water infrastructure, forcing the desalination plant on Santa Catalina Island to deenergize, which cut off water supply to half the island. Across the state, the impacts on local water infrastructure resulted in 10 boil water warnings, which impacted more than 1,000 residents.
The California state government took significant steps to respond to the storm — including supporting 24 shelters, preparing search and rescue teams, and mobilizing more than 2,000 regional transportation crews and 3,900 state police officers — but federal assistance remains critical.
“The heavy precipitation caused dangerous debris flows that threatened lives, businesses, and critical public infrastructure such as roads and waterways,” wrote the lawmakers. “In response to these dangerous conditions, the State of California marshaled all available resources to respond to this storm.”
“However, the severity and intensity of this storm require additional federal coordination and resources to effectively support the ongoing recovery efforts,” continued the lawmakers. “Therefore, we urge you to expeditiously approve California’s request for a major disaster declaration.”
According to the National Weather Service, 49 flash flooding warnings were issued in just the first 48 hours of the storm. During the same time period, Imperial County received 3.26 inches of rain, which is more than the county’s normal annual rainfall. San Bernardino County received 13.54 inches of rain over that period, with wind gusts up to 80 miles per hour. Near Palm Springs, Interstate 10, a vital transportation and distribution artery between the East and West Coasts, was closed in both directions due to massive debris flow. The debris flow covered all lanes of traffic and left hundreds of vehicles stranded.
In response to the storm, the lawmakers specifically requested that President Biden approve public assistance for Imperial, Inyo, Kern, Los Angeles, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Diego, Siskiyou, and Ventura counties. They also requested the Biden Administration authorize U.S. Small Business Administration disaster loans and funds, the U.S. Department of Agriculture Emergency Loan Program, and Hazard Mitigation across the state.
In addition to Senators Padilla and Feinstein and Representatives Calvert and Lofgren, the letter is also signed by House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.-20), Speaker Emerita Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.-11), and all 52 members representing the state in the House of Representatives: Pete Aguilar (D-Calif.-33), Nanette Barragán (D-Calif.-44), Ami Bera (D-Calif.-06), Julia Brownley (D-Calif.-26), Salud Carbajal (D-Calif.-24), Tony Cárdenas (D-Calif.-29), Judy Chu (D-Calif.- 28), J. Luis Correa (D-Calif.-46), Jim Costa (D-Calif.-21), Mark DeSaulnier (D-Calif.-10), John Duarte (R-Calif.-13), Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.-16), John Garamendi (D-Calif.-08), Mike Garcia (R-Calif.-27), Robert Garcia (D-Calif.-42), Jimmy Gomez (D-Calif.-34), Josh Harder (D-Calif.-09), Jared Huffman (D-Calif.-02), Darrell Issa (R-Calif.-48), Sara Jacobs (D-Calif.-51), Sydney Kamlager-Dove (D-Calif.-37), Ro Khanna (D-Calif.-17), Kevin Kiley (R-Calif.-03), Young Kim (R-Calif.-40), Doug LaMalfa (R-Calif.-01), Barbara Lee (D-Calif.-12), Mike Levin (D-Calif.-49), Ted Lieu (D-Calif.-36), Doris Matsui (D-Calif.-07), Tom McClintock (R-Calif.-05), Kevin Mullin (D-Calif.-15), Grace Napolitano (D-Calif.-31), Jay Obernolte (R-Calif.-23), Jimmy Panetta (D-Calif.-19), Scott Peters (D-Calif.-50), Katie Porter (D-Calif.-47), Raul Ruiz (D-Calif.-25), Linda Sánchez (D-Calif.-38), Adam Schiff (D-Calif.-30), Brad Sherman (D-Calif.-32), Michelle Steel (R-Calif.-45), Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.-14), Mark Takano (D-Calif.-39), Mike Thompson (D-Calif.-04), Norma Torres (D-Calif.-35), David Valadao (R-Calif.-22), Juan Vargas (D-Calif.-52), and Maxine Waters (D-Calif.-43).
Last month, Senators Padilla and Feinstein called on Senate leadership to include $310 million in the upcoming emergency supplemental bill to repair infrastructure needed to treat raw sewage spilling across the border from Mexico following Tropical Storm Hilary. Padilla also visited the Los Angeles Emergency Operations Center in the immediate aftermath of the storm to receive a briefing on damage assessments, improve preparedness, and thank first responders and emergency personnel for their around the clock work to keep Angelenos safe.
Full text of the letter is available here and below:
Dear President Biden:
We write in support of the State of California’s request for a major disaster declaration in response to the impacts of Tropical Storm Hilary that began on August 19, 2023. Tropical Storm Hilary was the first tropical storm to strike California since 1939 and it brought severe and unseasonal precipitation and high winds, as well as river and urban flooding in many areas of our state. The heavy precipitation caused dangerous debris flows that threatened lives, businesses, and critical public infrastructure such as roads and waterways.
In response to these dangerous conditions, the State of California marshaled all available resources to respond to this storm. This includes supporting twenty-four shelters across the state, mobilizing the National Guard, prepositioning swift water rescue and urban search and rescue teams, and mobilizing more than 2,000 regional transportation crews and 3,900 state police officers.
However, the severity and intensity of this storm require additional federal coordination and resources to effectively support the ongoing recovery efforts. Therefore, we urge you to expeditiously approve California’s request for a major disaster declaration and provide all categories of Public Assistance for the following counties: Imperial, Inyo, Kern, Los Angeles, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Diego, Siskiyou, and Ventura; any other appropriate Stafford Act disaster assistance programs; U.S. Small Business Administration disaster loans and funds from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Emergency Loan Program; and Hazard Mitigation statewide.