Humboldt County Office of Emergency Services Manager Ryan Derby (left) and Humboldt County Sheriff Billy Honsal address the Board of Supervisors. | Screenshots.


It has been quite a month! 

Just 28 days after a 6.4 magnitude earthquake kicked off the region’s most seismically active and destructive month in more than a decade, the Humboldt County Board of Supervisors today unanimously ratified a local emergency proclamation for the other natural disaster to strike Humboldt County over that stretch: a succession of major winter storms that toppled trees, disrupted utility services, damaged homes and roadways and caused mudslides and widespread flooding.

“All [of] that affected everyone within Humboldt County,” Sheriff Billy Honsal said at today’s single-item meeting of the Humboldt County Board of Supervisors. 

Last week Honsal declared a local emergency on the grounds that the storms posed an imminent threat to public safety and have caused significant damages to public and private property. The declaration opens up a request for state and federal relief funds, he explained, but whether that request will be granted depends on the amount of damage done.

The storms have caused more than $3 million in damages to public roadways, according to Ryan Derby, manager of the county’s Office of Emergency Services. Derby, who appeared alongside Honsal this morning to brief the board on the situation, said he’s still waiting for initial damage assessments from other departments. 

“The hope with that is to meet the threshold to get Humboldt County included on the major disaster declaration from the federal government,” Derby said.

“And I know at this point we’re getting initial damage estimates still from the earthquake,” he added. “So it’s just [a matter of] parsing out what was storm related, what was earthquake related, and making sure that we’re tracking those for the appropriate disaster numbers.”

Fifth District Supervisor and Board Chair Steve Madrone asked whether individual residents will be eligible for state or federal assistance, and Derby said that remains to be seen. The federal Small Business Administration has a threshold — at least 25 homes at 40 percent damage or more — before releasing individual assistance funds, and Derby said the county has yet to reach that mark from the recent storm damage.

“And because we have 16 counties in the coastal region that are part of this state of emergency, we will qualify for a federal declaration, but individual assistance is unclear at this point,” Derby said. 

Fourth District Supervisor Natalie Arroyo asked whether emergency funds may be available for sediment removal from local waterways that experienced heavy deposits during the storms.

Likely not, Derby said, adding that mitigation for the next natural disaster may be the best approach for such issues.

Locals can submit damage reports to the Sheriff’s Office’s website, though Derby cautioned, “Submitting those claims doesn’t provide any mechanism for relief through the county. It’s largely a tracking mechanism that we use to submit [information] to the state.”

Honsal stressed the importance of planning for the future.

“We have to prepare for the next disaster now,” he said. “We have beaten this drum over and over again over the last couple years, and so we really want to just remind people [to] prepare for that local emergency … at their homes and at their businesses.”

Honsal recommended as a resource for such preparations.

People seeking more information about the emergencies and recovery efforts can call (707) 441-5000 or (707) 268-2500.