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Biden ‘cautiously optimistic’ after California storms

‘We know some of the destruction is going to take years to rebuild. But we’ve got to not just rebuild, but rebuild better,’ the president said

President Joe Biden walks on the boardwalk with Jill Ealy and California Gov. Gavin Newsom as he visits with business owners and local residents in Capitola, Calif., Thursday, Jan 19, 2023, to survey recovery efforts following a series of severe storms.
President Joe Biden walks on the boardwalk with Jill Ealy and California Gov. Gavin Newsom as he visits with business owners and local residents in Capitola, Calif., Thursday, Jan 19, 2023, to survey recovery efforts following a series of severe storms.Susan Walsh (AP)

President Joe Biden walked along the splintered boardwalk of this picture-postcard California beach town Thursday and heard from business owners struggling to repair damage to their shops after deadly storms caused devastation across the region and killed more than 20 people statewide.

Biden toured a gutted seafood restaurant and the badly flooded Paradise Beach Grille, not far from the collapsed Capitola Pier and the brightly painted pink, orange and teal shops that were all boarded up following the storms. Walls were crumbling, debris scattered everywhere and floors swept away by raging waters.

“You don’t feel it until you walk the streets,” Biden said later from nearby Seacliff State Park, speaking about how bad the damage was and blaming climate change for the severity of the weather. “If anybody doubts the climate is changing, they must have been asleep for the last couple of years.”

Flanked by first responders, California Gov. Gavin Newsom and Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator Deanne Criswell, the president highlighted the damage from the punishing rains, powerful winds, floods and landslides. He warned climate change would create more extreme weather.

“We know some of the destruction is going to take years to rebuild,” Biden said. “But we’ve got to not just rebuild, but rebuild better.”

From Dec. 26 to Jan. 17, California was deluged by 11.47 inches of rain and snow on average across the state, according to the National Weather Service’s Weather Prediction Center, with some reports of up to 15 feet of snow in the highest elevations of the Sierra Nevada.

California gets much of its rain and snow in the winter from a weather phenomenon known as “atmospheric rivers” – long, narrow bands of water vapor that form over the ocean and flow through the sky.

California has been hit by nine atmospheric rivers since late December. The storms have relented in recent days. Forecasters were calling for light rain toward the end of this week followed by a dry period.

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