The long road to rebuilding is just beginning in the rain-pummeled state as assessments reveal damage worth millions
Mud oozed and swirled under the wheels of Darren Sauter’s tractor. The slick remnants of the state’s epic, weeks-long rainstorms left neighborhoods like this one in Felton, California, inundated even after the waters receded. Days after the downpours, Sauter and others were working to rid homes and streets of the dirty muck, piled 3ft high in places.
“People have had to just live with this,” said Sauter, speaking over the hum of his equipment as he worked on Wednesday afternoon. Sauter came down from Ben Lomond, a town just north of this quiet neighborhood in the Santa Cruz mountains, to help volunteer with the daunting cleanup. Riding a bright orange front loader, he shoveled mud to the side to create a pathway through the wet earth, still laden with chemical contaminants from the roadway and the smell of sewage, as solemn-faced residents looked on. “You can’t even walk through it.”
Spanning redwood covered mountains to the beaches of the Pacific coast, Santa Cruz county is a region of vast geographical and socioeconomic diversity. It has also borne the brunt of the brutal California rainstorms, which dropped an estimated 32.6tn gallons of water in just three weeks, causing an estimated $1bn in damage statewide and claiming at least 21 lives…