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Community members express outrage over Cathedral City’s response to tropical storm

Outrage from some Cathedral City residents over the city's actions before during and after Tropical Storm Hilary. 

"I have more faith in the community than the city and its elected council members," one resident said.

"We were told we got put on the list for firemen to come help but no one ever came," another resident said.

Tropical Storm Hilary severely impacted the Panorama Park neighborhood. The neighborhood was covered in several feet of mud, leaving residents stranded for days. Cleanup continues in the neighborhood.

As we reported last night, more than 100 residents came out to the council's meeting. Public comments lasted for nearly two hours.

"This is your job. This is your job performance review. Take note," said Brian J. Jacobson, a resident of the area. 

A lot of residents went up to the podium showing, describing and recalling, the damage done to their neighborhood. and the impacts of the storm that they are still dealing with today.

Many criticized the city's response and wanted to see more done.   

"We already know everyone is not happy with these things. So my question, what are your future plans and how are you going to help us?" said Somu Desai, owner of Desert Promotions, a business in the area that has sustained millions of dollars in damages.

This is the city’s disaster protocol. It’s four pages and a signature page, hasn’t been updated since 1984. I look at Palm Springs, the exact same document is 602 pages," said Chip Yarboro, Cathedral City resident.

Concerns ranged from the city's preparedness for a storm like Hilary to the emergency response from fire crews and other first responders on that night and in the days that followed. For many who spoke they wanted to make one thing very clear: they felt that the city of cathedral city failed them. 

"The city’s emergency response was obviously none or lacking direction," said Cathedral City resident Ronnie.

"We could not get any response from emergency services and the most disheartening thing was that not one member of emergency services, every knocked on our door to do a welfare check. we could have been dead in our homes, but none of you cared enough to check on us. You failed us," one resident said.

It was an emotional night with residents recalling the moments when disaster came right into their homes. Many of them accused city officials of showing up to the neighborhood for photo-ops and media attention.

"The representatives of Cathedral City have failed us. I’m sorry to tell you this but you really did fail," one resident said. "When it came time to smile for a photo ops, the national news, people were there. But when it was time for actual support being given, your backs were turned,"said Analisa Cayabyab, who owns an elderly care facility in the neighborhood. Some of the residents in the facility had to be taken out with a frontloader due to the mud.

News Channel 3's Samantha Lomibao was there during the meeting Wednesday night. Today, she's pressing city leaders for answers to some of your questions. 

"I understand where they're coming from, I understand their hurt and their shock and things like that. You know, I think that the I think that the city provided the support that we ought to have provided during the emergency event," said City Manager Charlie McClendon. "Our commitment was to try to help the recovery process along we've provided the support that I mentioned earlier to do that the council just last night, approved over a million dollars in authorization to pay for the support that the city has been providing."

Samantha asked McClendon whether city officials were there.

"I think the most important role of the City Council in an event like this is providing the resources that the boots on the ground, the fire, police, the Public Works and our contractors need in order to provide the disaster relief," McClendon said. "They have been very active in advocating to our regional state and national officials for that federal disaster declaration, which is still the key missing piece for us to be able to provide additional support to the community."

One resident noted, "[Mayor] Rita, stop telling other mayors we are okay and that we don't need assistance. stop lying to organizations that are trying to help because we are not okay and we need help."

Samantha asked McClendon for his response to this statement.

"I'm not aware of any help from other agencies being turned away, and we have relied heavily on the nonprofit sector, that the county end department, Cal OES right up the line," McClendon said. "In order to clear all that mud, there couldn't be other traffic and vehicles on the street, where we had to manage who could come in and who couldn't. In terms of volunteers, that was a short period of time. And most of the time, we welcomed and accommodated the supportive volunteers, which were essential to the progress that's been made so far."

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Samantha Lomibao

Samantha joined KESQ News Channel 3 in May 2021. Learn more about Samantha here here.

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