A Boulder Creek-area home that was damaged during a storm in March is pictured. (Courtesy of the Fauss family)

At least 46 homes in the San Lorenzo Valley area were more than 50% destroyed by the recent wave of storms, according to a preliminary survey completed by Boulder Creek nonprofit Coongie, which says the number of homes could be as high as 65.

Their damage data was forwarded to authorities who managed to secure a Major Disaster Declaration from President Joe Biden on Monday for the County of Santa Cruz, the second of the year.

“This newest storm was much more devastating in terms of the amount of money it’s going to cost to repair these homes,” said Coongie Executive Director Rebecca Uccelini. “Houses look like they were a cake cut through by a knife.”

The declaration also includes Kern, Mariposa, Monterey, San Benito, Tulare and Tuolumne counties and will allow affected residents to receive emergency services and federal aid, such as housing assistance, food, counseling and medical and legal services, said Gov. Gavin Newsom in a press release.

“This declaration brings in more vital resources as we continue to work in lockstep with local, state and federal partners to support communities that have been turned upside down by these storms,” Newsom said. “We are committed to supporting our communities over the long haul and thank the Biden Administration for their continued partnership.”

The declaration also includes public assistance to help state, tribal and local governments with ongoing emergency response and recovery costs, as well as hazard mitigation.

Newson also said undocumented residents ineligible for federal assistance due to immigration status could receive help from the California Department of Social Services’s Rapid Response Fund.

On Wednesday morning, FEMA spokesperson Tiana Suber said the organization was casting around for where it would open recovery centers—the place residents can go to apply for aid—and was weighing whether or not to deploy recovery assistance teams and mobile intake centers.

“We are currently working to get things set up to help survivors,” she said. “That process is ongoing right now.”

People who were affected by both the earlier disaster period (between Dec. 27 and Jan. 31) will find responding to the more recent crisis (which officially starts Feb. 21 and does not yet have an end date) rather familiar.

“(Even) if you registered for the previous disaster, you will have to reapply,” Suber said. “The same documents apply.”

For now, residents can go to disasterassistance.gov to get the ball rolling—or call 1-800-621-3362 (FEMA).

“Somebody will be there to help you upload your documents,” Suber said. “Make sure you don’t leave any resources on the table.”

Garth MacDonald, a spokesperson for the Small Business Administration, said it still has a location open from the earlier disaster at the Watsonville City Government Center, at 250 Main St., in Watsonville, noting residents can contact the agency’s customer service number at 1-800-659-2955.

“There’s some outreach and surveys being done looking possibly for a bigger location,” he said Wednesday. “I would think before the end of this week we’ll have locations in both the North and South County.”

Uccelini said she hopes the bureaucracy kinks—which saw many San Lorenzo Valley residents have to speak with FEMA and other officials eight or more times over the course of months to get dollars flowing—have been worked out for this second major disaster response.

“I’m really grateful,” she said of the new declaration. “Of the people that I’ve been working with, most are underinsured and some are uninsured. There’s no other option for getting support for them.”

Todd Guild contributed to this article.

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Drew Penner is an award-winning Canadian journalist whose reporting has appeared in the Globe and Mail, Good Times Santa Cruz, Los Angeles Times, Scotts Valley Press Banner, San Diego Union-Tribune, KCRW and the Vancouver Sun. Please send your Los Gatos and Santa Cruz County news tips to [email protected].


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