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California businesses face catastrophic damage

california floods

New York () — At the end of a long Californian wooden pier jutting out over the Pacific Ocean is the Wharf House restaurant. Now it is almost impossible to access it.

The Wharf House restaurant, a landmark establishment for residents of the Santa Cruz County seaside city of Capitola, stands alone, boarded up, damaged, and with an uncertain future. There is a large hole in the center of the pier, caused by the rain and waves that have battered the wood in recent days.

Its owner, Willie Case, 82, has not been back to his beloved restaurant since the night of January 4. He has owned it for 35 years.

“I don’t know how much damage has been done. I haven’t been able to go,” he says.

Powerful winter storms have unleashed torrential rains, winds, flooding and dangerous mudslides the likes of which California hasn’t seen in decades. The fury had catastrophic consequences for many home and business owners.

Persistent storms battering California after years of drought have put tens of millions of residents on alert for dangerous flooding and mudslides, as well as evacuations.

The rains arrived on the parched west coast in early November and have not let up. Much of California is receiving rainfall that is 400% to 600% above average. Thousands of people have had to leave their homes and the extreme weather has upended lives and businesses.

Wharf House, pictured on Jan. 8, sits at the end of a wooden pier that was cut off from land by heavy rain and waves. Credit: Jennifer Boone

On a typical sunny California day, a walk along the 900-foot-long Capitola Pier, amidst the sea breeze and clear skies, is as much a treat for diners as the ocean in front of it and the quaint seaside town. behind their backs.

Families regularly come to the Wharf House to enjoy breakfast, lunch and dinner and live music on its upper deck.

Now he is shrouded in darkness. According to Case, the raging waves tore between 30 and 40 feet from the pier.

“Eight support piles were lost in the raging water. We don’t know if the water went up through the restaurant floor because we can’t see anything,” he said.

Case hopes that a lull in the storms will allow him to use drones to get a closer look at the full extent of the damage. “The only other way to get there is by boat. The way the waves are hitting the shore right now, I can’t do it,” Case said.

While you hope and wish for the best, you worry about the repairs to your business and the dock.

california floods

An aerial view shows damage to the pier on which the Wharf House restaurant is located. Credit: Josh Edelson/AFP/Getty Images

“The repair is not easy. It is already unstable and cranes will be needed to restore the piles. It will take time and a lot of money,” he said. Case had difficulty getting liability insurance. “It won’t cover a business that’s over water, especially in the event of a natural disaster,” he said.

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About 5 million people were under a flood watch Wednesday as another atmospheric river brought more rain to California.

The flood watches primarily affect northern and central California, including Sacramento, North Bay and Redding, and threaten to exacerbate an already difficult situation for residents coping with flood-ravaged neighborhoods.

Sam DeNicola, 30, hopes for the best in the next few days as he and his employees clean up the Bread Bike bakery.

DeNicola, co-owner of the bakery, opened his first location in San Luis Obispo, in California’s Central Coast region, last summer. He says the bakery makes and sells organic, artisanal bread with California-grown grain and wheat. The bakery also has a bike delivery service.

california floods

Water flooded the grinding room of Sam DeNicola’s bakery in San Luis Obispo, California, earlier this week. Credit: Sam DeNicola

The business is located on low ground and one block from the center of town. On Monday, DeNicola waded knee-deep in water to get to the bakery.

“There is a stream that runs through the city and with so much rain it has overflowed,” he explains.

Once in the bakery, he said that it had gone better than he expected. “There was water damage, but luckily our floors are concrete and easy to clean and disinfect. We keep our equipment 6 inches off the ground and the water was 2 to 4 inches high,” DeNicola explains.

DeNicola has already lost several days of sales and is worried that it will continue to rain. And it is that he also generates additional business selling bread in the local markets a couple of days a week.

“We may be able to keep the store open even if it rains. But people don’t go to the markets when it rains a lot. That’s hard for us,” DeNicola says.

Ali Jansen, 44, recounts the horror she felt when she woke up Monday morning and looked out her window to see the street in front of her building turn into a river.

california floods

The street outside Frame Works, a San Luis Obispo custom picture framing business and art gallery, turned into a river on Monday morning, January 9. Credit: Ali Jansen

Jansen is the owner of Frame Works, a San Luis Obispo picture framing business and art gallery. Her store, 230 square meters, is located on the ground floor of the same building in which she lives, above her, with her family.

Heavy rains this past weekend caused the nearby creek to overflow its banks, pushing water over a bridge and into the streets, he said. “It must have rained more than 150mm in 18 hours between Sunday and Monday,” she explains. At first he couldn’t wade through the water to get into his tent.

It took a few hours to withdraw. When she did, the damage was obvious. “There was mud and debris. Most of the artwork was on the walls and was fine. But some custom artwork was damaged,” he explains.

“People trust us with their work, whether it’s from Etsy or their great-grandmother’s embroideries, that can’t be replaced,” she explains.

Days later, Jansen is still cleaning the store. “I’ve worked from sunrise to sunset. I feel like if I stop I’m going to pass out from the pain,” she says. She has to keep working to dry the place as soon as possible.

“If mold forms, it can be a big problem,” he explains. “I’d have to replace the drywall. Plus, I have asthma, so I can’t risk it.” He so far estimates the damage at about $10,000 and fears it will skyrocket if he has to deal with mold.

“I’m quite worried,” she says.

The vineyards are faring no better.

Paso Robles Fire and Emergency Services Chief Jonathan Stornetta said his team has been busy accessing infrastructure damage in and around the city.

The city, located north of San Luis Obispo, is famous for its wineries.

The heavy rains have caused the Salinas River to rise, which runs through Paso Robles, causing damage to roads, homes and businesses. “The flood level of the river is 8.8 meters. We reached 9.7,” Stornetta said.

The city had to decree forced evacuations earlier in the week. “We have carried out three waterway rescues and one helicopter rescue,” he said.

california floods

Water collects near a compost pile among vines at Tablas Creek Vineyard in Paso Robles, CA, on January 11. Courtesy of Tablas Creek Vineyard

At Tablas Creek Vineyard, about 15 minutes west of the city of Paso Robles, vintner Jordan Lonborg recorded video of Las Tablas Creek overflowing its banks and gushing water from the vineyard entrance.

“It got dangerous for a while,” Lonborg said.

“We received 160 mm of rain in a period of 24 to 36 hours. The ground is saturated and it has nowhere to run,” he added. The flood has washed away a main road leading to the vineyard. “It’s our main access to the city. Now, instead of 20 minutes, it will take 40 minutes to get to town,” he explains.

But he doesn’t complain, because the rain can be good for the wine business.

“We depend on the rain because 40% of the vineyard is cultivated dry. That is why the winter rains are crucial for the plants,” he explains. Although the rain has completely saturated the soil around the dormant vines,

Lonborg said the soil is well supported and in no danger of eroding.

“We plan for extreme rainfall and prepare the soil for it,” he says.

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Overflow on Adelaida Road in Paso Robles, CA, on January 9. Courtesy of Tablas Creek Vineyard

But rains and floods have paralyzed another crucial aspect of the wine business: tastings. With the main road under water, the vineyard has had to cancel the tastings.

“We rely on tastings in the off-season,” explains Lonborg. “Profit margins are on direct-to-consumer sales. Some wineries only sell direct-to-consumer and don’t have online sales. For them, this could be a bigger problem.”

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