"California is prone to floods, fires, earthquakes. We can predict that we will be afflicted by these kinds of natural disasters again," said San Jose Mayor Matt Mahan.
On September 6, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) designated two areas in San Jose as "Community Disaster Resilience Zones." There are a total of seven such zones in the Bay Area, 51 in California, and over 500 nationally.
"What they’ve done is take a look at risk factors, 18 of them. Which areas are affected by previous disasters? What’s the socio-economic population within those areas? And how do we mitigate it?," explained Mark Neveau, a former FEMA federal coordinating officer.
FEMA is set to allocate more than $3 billion to these zones, enabling local communities to undertake mitigation efforts and reduce the risk and impact of natural disasters such as heatwaves, floods, fires, and earthquakes.
"I’m thrilled San Jose was chosen. And that the federal government is trying to get upstream of natural disasters," said Mahan.
Climate experts noted that climate change is a contributing factor, transforming infrequent events into more frequent catastrophes.
"One of the things we’ve seen worldwide this summer, is a lot of flooding rains, that have been made worse by climate change," said Dr. Alison Bridger, an atmospheric scientist at San Jose State University. "There’s an increase in extreme weather, worldwide. So what used to be a regular rain even now becomes a heavier rain event."
Officials pointed out that completed mitigation projects in other parts of the Bay Area have yielded positive results. San Jose's leaders are optimistic that the influx of federal funding will allow them to stay ahead of the unpredictable forces of nature.
"Let’s use that money to do something about that," said Bridger. Added Mahan, "We need to figure out how much money we have, and then design a sight-specific plan to think about how to best use those dollars, and how to make those neighborhoods more resilient to floods, wildfire risk and other natural disasters."
The mayor mentioned potential measures such as levee construction, vegetation management. The exact amount of FEMA funding allocated to San Jose will become more clear in the coming months.
Jesse Gary is a reporter based in the station's South Bay bureau. Follow him on X (formerly Twitter), @JesseKTVU and on Instagram, @jessegontv.