Mudslide Losses Top $421 Million in Hard-Hit California Town

LOS ANGELES (AP) — More than $421 million in claims have been filed since deadly mudslides tore through the coastal community of Montecito during extremely heavy January rains, California's insurance commissioner said Monday.

Insurers have received more than 2,000 claims for residential and commercial losses, commissioner Dave Jones announced. Those include $388 million for residential personal property, $27.2 million for commercial property and $6.7 million for auto and other lines of insurance.

Recently burned by California's largest recorded wildfire, the hillsides of Montecito northwest of Los Angeles could not absorb the rainstorm with an epic downpour of nearly an inch (2.5 centimeters) in 15 minutes early on Jan. 9.

Uber Won’t Renew Autonomous-Vehicle License for California

Uber Technologies Inc. won’t renew a license to operate self-driving cars in California while the company evaluates how one of its vehicles killed a pedestrian in Arizona last week.

The San Francisco-based company told the California Department of Motor Vehicles that it will let its license expire at the end of the month, according to a letter from the department’s deputy director. The self-driving car program is under intense scrutiny following a collision on March 18 that killed a woman in Tempe, Arizona. All of Uber’s autonomous-vehicle tests have been on pause since the incident.

Report on California Workers’ Comp Shows 227 Medical Providers Suspended

The California Department of Industrial Relations on Monday issued a progress report on its anti-fraud efforts, including updates on the suspension of 227 medical providers from treating California’s injured workers and the dismissal of 292,000 illegitimate liens with claims valued at more than $2.5 billion.

Worried About Being on Top of an Earthquake Fault? New California Maps Will let you Know on a Smartphone

(TNS) - It’s now way easier to find out if you live in a California earthquake fault zone.

The California Geological Survey has published an easy-to-use interactive map online — type in your address or share your location on your smartphone, and, voila, you’ll know if you stand in a fault zone.

Or, for that matter, a place at risk of liquefaction or a landslide unleashed by an earthquake.

What these three zones have in common is the risk the ground can break in an earthquake, and not just be shaken.

Facing Blame for Fires, Utility Plans 24/7 Prediction and Response Center in California

(TNS) — Pacific Gas and Electric Co. plans to unveil a sweeping set of steps to prevent wildfires or contain them when they erupt.

The utility, whose equipment is being investigated as a potential cause of the Wine Country fires last fall, will create a wildfire prediction and response center in San Francisco that will operate around the clock during fire season. The company will greatly expand its own network of weather stations to monitor conditions, adding hundreds more this year.

PG&E will contract with out-of-state firefighters, keeping them on retainer for emergencies. And it will harden its electrical grid to better endure windstorms, replacing wooden poles with sturdier steel ones over time.

Rain Hits Santa Barbara and Ventura, Calif., Counties as Residents Prepare for Potential Flooding and Mudslides

(TNS) - Rain continued to soak Santa Barbara and Ventura counties Wednesday afternoon as residents of fire- and mudslide-battered communities endured the first day of Southern California's largest storm of the season.

The storm — a vast atmospheric river of tropical moisture known as a "pineapple express" — made landfall Tuesday night and is predicted to last through Thursday.

"It's going to be steady, light rain with periods of heavy rain," said Stuart Seto of the National Weather Service in Oxnard. Heavier bouts of rain will occur Wednesday evening and the following day, he said.

More Than 60 Deaths in Fires, Floods Exposes Weaknesses in California's Emergency Planning

(TNS) — A reckoning on public preparedness long in the making is underway in California after a year that saw unprecedented death, destruction and loss from disasters set off by extreme weather.

Though California has long experienced natural disasters tied to weather, the last year recorded a staggering human toll — more than 40 dead in wine country fires and more than 20 in Santa Barbara County mudslides.

California Needs New Laws to Boost Earthquake Safety, Assemblyman Says

(TNS) -- A Los Angeles lawmaker says California needs new statewide laws that boost earthquake safety, and wants to toughen rules on how strong new buildings should be and require cities to identify buildings at risk of collapse.

Assemblyman Adrin Nazarian (D-North Hollywood) said the bills are important for keeping California functioning after a major earthquake.

Sonoma County, Calif., Learns Bitter Lessons from Deadly Fire, Adopts Reforms

Sonoma County, which lost 25 lives in last October’s wildfires, has changed the ways in which it alerts residents after scathing criticism for not using cellphone alerts during the devasting fires last fall.

The then emergency manager and others decided against sending out mass alerts because they believed they could not adequately target who received the messages and didn’t want to “over-alert.” They felt that doing so could lead people who were safe to evacuate into a more dangerous area or cause severe traffic.

Good News on Opioid Usage for a Change – it’s Down in California Workers’ Comp

Efforts to curb the use of opioids in California’s workers’ compensation system appear to be paying off.

New research from the California Workers’ Compensation Institute on prescription drugs used to treat injured workers shows that opioids now account for less than a quarter of all workers’ comp prescriptions in the state, down from nearly a third a decade ago.

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