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It's an emergency!

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San Luis Obispo County supervisors unanimously ratified a decision declaring a local emergency after winter storms thrashed the county.

County emergency officials received 150 calls and sent 61 field crews to monitor recent storm-related problems, the most concerning of which were potential breaches of the Arroyo Grande Creek levee. At the height of the storms, the creek was less than a foot away from spilling over the top of its 28-foot-high capacity.

Oceano was hit hardest by floods, but other cities and areas that fell victim to the disaster included Nipomo and Avila Beach where the Sycamore Springs Resort and Spa was deluged, trapping workers, county officials said.

Proclaiming a formal emergency opens the county to funding opportunities, but as Office of Emergency Services Manager Ron Alsop said, “It doesn’t give us carte blanche to do whatever.” Officials will review the designation every 14 days.

County officials are also gathering damage information in an attempt to get a federal disaster designation and more funds. They estimate the total damages to public and private properties at more than $2 million.

Supervisors questioned some of the county’s emergency responses, particularly whether Avila Beach residents would have been trapped had there been a problem at Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant. County staffers assured that though one road was blocked by floods, residents always had a clear road out.

Members of the public questioned the county response, particularly in the Oceano area where some criticized county officials for not clearing a set of flap gates that allow water to flow into the ocean. Oceano was hit particularly hard by floods, which then caused anywhere from 110,000 to 1 million gallons of sewage to flow out of the South San Luis Obispo County Sanitation District Facilities.

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