President Biden arrives in California to survey storm damage in Santa Cruz County

President Biden arrived in Santa Clara County Thursday morning to begin his tour of the Central Coast and the damages left behind by recent storms.

Biden planned to talk with business owners and residents who were impacted the most.

The president, accompanied by FEMA 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 will meet 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.

Santa Cruz County Board Supervisor and Chair Zach Friend says he expects county damages to be at least $100 million and that Biden's visit should reassure people the federal government is committed to helping them rebuild. 

Joshua Whitby is the kitchen manager at Zelda’s on the Beach, a beachfront restaurant in Capitola that’s served Santa Cruz and its tourists for over 40 years.  

"It is a huge loss. Seventy four employees who don’t get to work for the next six weeks, no revenue coming in for us. It’s a pretty big hit…absolutely," Whitby said. 

As Zelda’s staff works to replace flooring, plywood in the walls and cleans up as much as they can, Biden will survey storm damages, talk with residents and business owners, and meet some first responders. He will also be accompanied by U.S. Senator for California Alex Padilla. 

"I think it's wonderful. A high-profile visit from the president will get the attention that we need here in Capitola and help us rebuild and bounce back from the storms," said Chris Amsden of Capitola. 

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The storms' destruction prompted the president to declare a state of emergency in California, which allowed FEMA and the Department of Homeland Security to coordinate disaster relief efforts throughout the state. The declaration also makes state and federal funds available to help people put their lives back together. 

"There’s been a lot of tears, there’s been a lot of anger, and we’ve moved into that stage of hope. I think this is the kickoff stage towards the rebuild to have the president come here, commit those resources and commit to be with us for the long term," said Friend.

After surveying the area, Biden plans to speak during a brief news conference in the afternoon. People we spoke to in Capitola say they have high hopes of getting much-needed financial assistance from the President. 

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"This is a really strong community. They’ll come together, they already have, but we’re going to need help. I hope he sees that and can help," said Candy Shepard, who lives in Capitola.    

Capitola is a tourist town and most businesses here are still open, but Friend says even with proper funding, it could take years for some people to rebuild their homes and their lives.