California tops FEMA’s new list of areas vulnerable to weather disasters. What does it mean for the Bay Area?

Despite the name, “Community Disaster Resilience Zones” are not local havens capable of withstanding storms and other extreme weather. But the Federal Emergency Management Agency, better known as FEMA, is spending billions in hopes that they can be.

The agency has identified nearly 500 such “zones,” swaths of land generally covering several miles that are ill-prepared to tolerate flooding, earthquakes, heat waves, wildfires, landslides and other natural hazards. As extreme weather is expected to continue shattering expectations and local records — from downpours drenching Death Valley to hurricanes pummeling California’s coastline — these areas will be prioritized for additional funding for protective improvements.

While the new zones aren’t promised any specific funding, projects in selected census tracts will be prioritized for annual resilience grant programs and an increased federal cost share from FEMA other federal agencies — tapping budgets that President Joe Biden’s administration increased from $700 million to nearly $3 billion in August.

San Jose Mayor Matt Mahan said the increased pre-disaster planning will help mitigate damage in vulnerable areas of the country — 500 census tracts at a time.

“Preparing for a disaster before it occurs is the best way to save lives and money in the long run,” Mahan said in a statement. “It’s also a matter of equity. Historically vulnerable populations are disproportionately affected by natural disasters, and these dollars will help us protect our wonderfully diverse San Jose community.”

California topped all states in FEMA’s new plan, with 51 total zones — including seven census tracts in the Bay Area — followed by 35 in Texas and 32 in Florida.

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Locally, these local Community Disaster Resilience Zones are primarily concentrated near waterways prone to flooding and earthquakes across Alameda and Santa Clara counties — as well as one that includes much of San Francisco’s Union Square and surrounding areas. Each scored in the 99th percentile of FEMA’s National Risk Index, beating out roughly 84,000 other tracts across the nation.

It’s not news that Coyote Creek in San Jose, tidelands abutting Fremont’s Tesla Factory and Bay Farm Island near Alameda, Oakland and San Leandro’s city limits are often swept up in storm coverage headlines, most recently during a gantlet of high-powered January storms that soaked the state.

But the hope is to increase resilience proactively rather than rely on reactive requests for aid after the damage is done. Climate researchers estimated that there were 122 billion-dollar disasters across

Source:: East Bay – Entertainment


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