Biden says California should 'rebuild better' after record rains

US President 'cautiously optimistic that the worst is behind', with no further atmospheric rivers predicted

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US President Joe Biden on Thursday said “the situation is still treacherous” after visiting flood-damaged regions of California, which were hit by record levels of rain in a series of storms over the course of three weeks.

“While the situation is still treacherous, we're cautiously optimistic that the worst part is behind,” he said in remarks from Santa Cruz, a beach town south of San Francisco and north of Los Angeles.

“Some of the destruction is going to take years to fully recover and rebuild. But we got to not just rebuild, but rebuild better.”

US President Joe Biden talks to first responders with Governor Gavin Newsom at storm-damaged Seacliff State Park. Reuters

From December 26 to January 15, California experienced at least nine atmospheric rivers — fierce rainfall from a narrow formulation of concentrated water vapour in the sky moving through jet streams.

More than 121 trillion litres of water were dumped on the drought-stricken state.

The storms led to evacuation orders for several counties, caused flooding and mudslides, and knocked out power for hundreds of thousands of homes and businesses.

At least 20 people were killed due to the weather.

“Right now, more than 500 employees of Fema [Federal Emergency Management Agency] are out here and other federal agencies on the ground trying to help people,” Mr Biden said.

Before Mr Biden's visit, the White House said the President had made additional disaster assistance available for the Golden State.

He had already approved the state's major disaster declaration for federal funding on January 14.

The Los Angeles Times reported last week that the storms could cost more than $1 billion in damage.

“I’m deeply thankful for the incredible support of our federal partners throughout this emergency as we’ve worked around the clock to save lives and help Californians whose lives have been turned upside down by these storms,” California Governor Gavin Newsom said in a statement.

The state is working to ensure the record rains help to remedy its historic years-long drought by bolstering stormwater capture and solidifying water storage in reservoirs and elsewhere.

While the rains are not an ultimate solution, the US Drought Monitor reported great improvement in California's drought-hit regions, some of which departed “exceptional” and “extreme” intensity levels over the past month.

“Extreme weather caused by climate change means stronger and more frequent storms, more intense droughts, longer wildfire seasons, all of which threatened communities across California,” Mr Biden said.

“So we have to invest in strong infrastructure to lessen the impacts of these disasters because they become cumulative, in a sense.”

Updated: January 19, 2023, 11:47 PM