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President Biden tours storm damage in California

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

California's recent storms affected two-thirds of all the counties in the state. At least 21 people have died. President Biden visited the state's central coast on Thursday. And from member station KAZU, Jerimiah Oetting reports.

JERIMIAH OETTING, BYLINE: The sun was out in the coastal city of Capitola, just south of Santa Cruz.

(CHEERING)

OETTING: And thousands gathered to see the president as he promised to support the community's recovery.

AARON MCKINNON: It's a big deal, you know?

OETTING: Resident Aaron McKinnon was in the crowd.

MCKINNON: This winter weather we had, this extreme weather that we had is affecting people from all over the coast and inland, as well. So it just means a lot.

OETTING: Capitola was hit hard during the storms. Biden toured damaged buildings and businesses.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: While the situation is still treacherous, we're cautiously optimistic that the worst part is behind.

OETTING: Over the coming days and weeks, he said, the full extent of the damage across California will become clear. By some estimates, homes, businesses and farms suffered hundreds of millions of dollars in losses.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

BIDEN: We know some of the destruction is going to take years to fully recover and rebuild.

OETTING: The administration declared a major disaster for much of the state. Biden committed federal funds to help communities recover and said there were over 500 federal emergency responders currently on the ground.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

BIDEN: The country is here for you and with you. We are not leaving till things are built back and built back better than they were before.

OETTING: Biden also touted broader federal spending on measures to help improve climate resilience in the state and said his administration had already spent $9 billion on other climate-related events in California, such as wildfires. Santa Cruz County Supervisor Zach Friend says the effects of climate change are already alarming and will likely get worse.

ZACH FRIEND: There's no way to look at what's happening right now across this country and across the world and not be concerned about it, about what this new normal is.

OETTING: His county went from extreme drought to extreme flooding in just a matter of days.

For NPR News, I'm Jerimiah Oetting in Capitola, Calif. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Jerimiah Oetting