The long process of cleanup gets underway in downtown Joshua Tree after a storm Oct. 12-13 sent water and mud through neighborhoods.

JOSHUA TREE — Early this month, homes in the Friendly Hills area of Joshua Tree were devastated by a sudden storm and some families are still reaping the effects of water damage, structural damage and mold in their homes.

To help lessen the impact of the storm on some of these families and on the community as a whole, the San Bernardino County board of supervisors declared the Oct. 12-14 storm and aftermath a local emergency in the communities of Flamingo Heights, Hidden River, Joshua Tree, Landers, Twentynine Palms, Yucca Valley and surrounding areas.

This declaration allows the county of San Bernardino to seek federal and state reimbursement for the costs of the damage and debris removal.

The storm system caused erosion and mud flow, creating the need for emergency road repairs and detours. Preliminary estimates for repairing county-maintained roads are approximately $5.3 million.

“The county and special districts teams are putting every effort into making sure people are safe and have access to and from their properties,” Kevin Blakeslee, director of public works, said at the special board of supervisors meeting Wednesday.

Crews taking part in the effort include employees of the Joshua Basin Water District, the Hi-Desert Water District and the California Highway Patrol.

“Our community really came together in support of one another during this time,” Supervisor James Ramos commented.

And while this declaration could eventually help the country and individual households get money for repairs, there are still many families that need immediate assistance.

The Voluntary Organizations Active in Disasters (VOAD) and Morongo Basin Community Organizations Active in Disasters (COAD) groups are canvasing the affected neighborhoods this weekend to bring aid to families in need.

“Teams are canvassing the neighborhood this weekend to find residents with damage. They are delivering cleaning kits and working on getting trash dumpsters,” said Rani Marriott, whose Joshua Tree house was devastated by the storm.

Marriott has been actively working with VOAD to help push the emergency declaration through the county and she is hopeful that the governor of California will approve a declaration to allow families to apply for low-interest disaster loans.

Marjorie Smith, of VOAD and COAD, said Saturday’s cleanup efforts will be based at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints at Onaga Trail and Sage Avenue in Yucca Valley.

“Volunteers will be briefed and divided into teams and sent to various addresses for debris cleanup and drywall removal,” Smith said. “Others will be briefed in damage assessment so we can continue canvasing Joshua Tree, talking to homeowners, documenting damage, leaving cleanup kits if needed and providing information packs.”

The cleanup will take place from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. with lunch provided by Walmart at 12:15. At the end of the day, teams will return to the church for a debriefing and to turn in any paperwork they completed while canvassing.

“The community needs to get behind the recovery efforts,” Smith said. “A big part of disaster recovery is emotional and spiritual care — people need to tell their story and the crews are asked to listen.”

For more information on the cleanup, call the VOAD and COAD office at (760) 820-1168 or Marjorie Smith at (442) 275-7277.

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