By ZEKE MILLER
AP White House Correspondent
MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. (AP) — President Joe Biden is touring damaged areas and being briefed on recovery efforts Thursday after devastating storms hit California in recent weeks, killing at least 20 people and causing destruction across 41 of the state’s 58 counties.
The president, accompanied by Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator Deanne Criswell, Gov. Gavin Newsom and other state and local officials, is visiting the storm-damaged Capitola Pier in Santa Cruz County, where he is meeting with business owners and affected residents.
Biden will also meet with first responders and deliver remarks on supporting the state’s recovery at nearby Seacliff State Park. More than 500 FEMA and other federal personnel have been deployed to California to support the emergency response operations.
Criswell said Thursday on the trip from Washington to California that the president and staff have to be mindful of what people have been through when traveling to places devastated by storms and other natural disasters.
“There has just been so much trauma to this community and it’s really important that we keep that in mind. … These communities have had loss of life, loss of their well-being and their livelihood, and I think it’s incredibly important that they know that the president is here to support them and that the full force of the federal family is going to be behind them.”
Biden has already approved a major disaster declaration for the state, freeing up additional federal resources for recovery efforts. Hours before the visit, he raised the level of federal assistance available even higher.
From Dec. 26 to Jan. 17, the entire state of California averaged 11.47 inches of rain and snow, according to the National Weather Service’s Weather Prediction Center, with some reports of up to 15 feet of snow falling over the three-week period 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, although forecasters were calling for light rain toward the end of this week followed by a dry period.
Associated Press writers Seth Borenstein in Washington and Adam Beam in Sacramento, California, contributed to this report.
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