Governor praises California National Guard’s around-the-clock work to clean Montecito site in advance of this weekend’s storms
Gov. Gavin Newsom stood Friday afternoon in front of a new debris basin that officials say made the difference for Montecito during this week’s storms.
Before the governor addressed a large group of elected officials and media on a partly cloudy day, 80 members of the California National Guard worked around the clock to clean 50,000 cubic yards of debris from the new Randall Road Debris Basin, which was completed just months before the storm that slammed Santa Barbara County Monday and Tuesday — five years after the catastrophic Jan. 9, 2018 debris flow.
After bringing up members of the National Guard to the microphone, Gov. Newsom told his audience, “Here we are trying to get ahead of this,.” He was referring to this weekend’s storms, which experts have said will be less severe than the one that hit Santa Barbara County early this week.
“I was just down with the Bucket Brigade,” Gov. Newsom said, referring to the Montecito nonprofit that emerged in the aftermath of the 2018 debris flow. “They’re on demand, delivering sandbags all over the region. It came from the ashes of the devastation five years ago.”
Gov. Newsom said the spirit of community volunteerism and cooperation “is alive and well,” not only on the South Coast but in North County.
The governor praised first responders for the rescues they performed during the Monday/Tuesday storm.
After the governor’s speech, he took questions from the media, and the News-Press asked him whether President Joe Biden would come to California to see the storm damage. Gov. Newsom said he would wait for the White House to make an announcement.
The News-Press later asked Gov. Newsom about the response California, including Santa Barbara County, has received from President Biden in terms of help.
“It’s been exceptional,” Gov. Newsom said, praising President Biden and his staff for their fast response.
“The president called me a couple days ago, before I formally made a request,” the governor told the News-Press. “He said, ‘Let me know when you submit it.’ I said, ‘Mr. President, this afternoon. …
“The FEMA director is out here visiting” in California, Gov. Newsom said, referring to the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
Earlier, Gov. Newsom said developments such as atmospheric rivers have led to challenges in emergency responses. “The questions are, ‘Are we resilient enough, creative enough, so we can thrive, not just survive?” he said.
Gov. Newsom noted 88 major water projects have been completed in California since 2016.
As he stood in front of the debris basin and the greenery of rural Montecito, Gov. Newsom noted nature’s turbulence is part of what created California’s natural settings.
“The beauty of this place is demonstrably because of the violence of nature going back a millennium,” he said. “It is that ferocity that created so much of what we’ve come to love about the state of California.”
Gov. Newsom said Californians are up to the challenge of living with nature.
“We’re resourceful. We’re rugged,” he said. “We’re here again, mindful that we need to quickly pivot our approach to hydrology, how we store water, how we replenish water, how we protect the people that we serve.
“We expect 1 to 3 inches of rain, mild to heavy throughout the state,” Gov. Newsom said. “California is the size of 21 state populations. We’re dealing with a scale (of storms) that we’ve never dealt with.”
Earlier during the news conference, various local, state and federal officials spoke.
“Geologists are fond of saying that every mountain wants to be a beach and the physics and geology of the process puts in a precarious place between those forces,” Assemblymember Gregg Hart, D-Santa Barbara, said. “We’ve intervened with those forces with an incredible infrastructure with those forces swirling around us.”
State Sen. Monique Limón, D-Santa Barbara, reminded the audience that extreme weather this week impacted not only Montecito, but North County cities such as Guadalupe, Santa Maria and Orcutt.
“I’m grateful that our city, county and state and federal government are working on behalf of you today,” she said.
First District Supervisor Das Williams, who recently became the chair of the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors, thanked Gov. Newsom for bringing the 80 National Guard members who cleaned the Randall Road basin.
Echoing the sentiments of other officials, U.S. Rep. Salud Carbajal, D-Santa Barbara, expressed his gratitude to the governor as he introduced him.
Gov. Newsom urged Californians to be careful and trust their gut when dealing with storms. “If you have an intuitive feeling that something ain’t right about driving left vs. driving right, don’t do it.”
He also asked residents throughout the state to heed the instructions of officials such as those in law enforcement and Caltrans.
“I know how fatigued you all are,” Gov. Newsom said. “I hope you will maintain a little more vigilance over the weekend. We’ll get through it.”