Sean Dobbs and neighbor Sumiko Livin share an embrace in the aftermath of the Dec. 31 storm.
(Mark Conley / Lookout Santa Cruz)
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Morning Lookout: Storm recovery and aftermath updates around county as Lookout launches new section

Good morning, all. It’s Monday, Jan. 30, and it’s a mostly sunny forecast for Santa Cruz County for the week ahead, but with highs in just the 50s and chilly nights and mornings.

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First up is our newest section — Storms 2023: Road to Recovery. It’s Lookout’s resource for the aftermath of the series of atmospheric rivers that struck the region earlier this month, with news on rebuilding efforts, how to find help and volunteer or donate, and so much more. Managing Editor Tamsin McMahon explains in an editor’s note.

We’ve got a number of stories on the storm recovery process this Monday. Mark Conley talked to residents of Watsonville whose homes were flooded after the New Year’s Eve deluge overwhelmed Pajaro River tributaries and infrastructure designed to mitigate that flooding.

Meanwhile, Max Chun has updates on the latest county damage estimates — $76 million and counting — and on repairs to West Cliff Drive and the San Lorenzo River levee in Santa Cruz. And Kaya Henkes-Power reports on work being done to repair and reopen Highway 9, Highway 236 and other roads in the Santa Cruz Mountains.

We’ve got storm-recovery content in our Community Voices opinion section, too, with a Lookout editorial asking what a “build back better” process might look like, who will pay, and whether it will all happen equitably. Monday also finds an op-ed from longtime local journalist Tom Honig, who examines the impact on Santa Cruz County of President Joe Biden’s visit.

Monday’s headlines also include pieces you might have missed from the weekend — Wallace Baine on the vital new “Bay of Life” exhibit now open at the Santa Cruz Museum of Art and History, and a Community Voices op-ed from activist Erika Alfaro on the environmental racism of pesticide use in our county. So please, read along as we cover it all.

‘No simple fix’: Watsonville’s most vulnerable seek answers, assurances in flooding aftermath

A worker from FEMA talks to Sumiko Livin on Argos Circle.
(Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz)

Those who live in the lowest-lying areas adjacent to the Pajaro River’s tributaries knew that flooding was a possibility, but most had never seen it for themselves. When a weather system predicted to drop far less rainfall than it did arrived on New Year’s Eve, it created a perfect storm of chaos for many residents — particularly some of the area’s oldest and most vulnerable in the neighborhood known as The Villages. Mark Conley reports.

RELATED: ‘We’re 60 years behind the curve’: Pajaro River levee project on its way to combatting future disasters

A Lookout View: ‘Build back better’ sounds great. But who is paying and when?

President Joe Biden and Gov. Gavin Newsom outside Zelda's On The Beach in Capitola Village.
(Susan Walsh / Associated Press via pool)

Yes, Santa Cruzans are resilient, but this next recovery is fraught with challenges and questions. They begin with money, but now include lots of questions driven by climate change and equity. Read Lookout’s editorial.

MORE: Find our previous editorials here


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Definitely plenty to digest, so take your time. Lookout has more coming, too, so follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to stay current. We also offer breaking news alerts and a host of other newsletters, which you can sign up for here.

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Now get out there and show Monday who’s boss!

Will McCahill
Lookout Santa Cruz