Some mountain residents could be snowed in a week

LOS ANGELES — Some residents stranded in Southern California mountain communities by a huge snowfall could be stuck for another week, an official said Friday, March 3, 2023.

A late-February blast of arctic air produced a rare blizzard east of Los Angeles in the San Bernardino Mountains, where thousands of people live at high elevations in forest communities or visit for year-round recreation.

Extraordinary snowfall buried homes and businesses, overwhelming the capability of snowplowing equipment geared toward ordinary storms.

By last weekend, all highways leading up into the mountains were closed and have opened intermittently since then to residents and convoys of trucks loaded with food or other supplies.

The estimate by San Bernardino County Sheriff Shannon Dicus was an improvement in the outlook for stranded residents, which previously ranged up to two weeks.

“We’ve said we could push it out as far as two weeks but because of the state’s efforts and the equipment that’s coming in behind us we’re hoping to drop that down to a week,” he told a press conference.

The sheriff and other officials said progress has been made, but they described severe conditions that, for example, have forced firefighters to reach emergency scenes such as fires in snowcats.

“The enormity of this event is hard to comprehend,” said state Assemblyman Tom Lackey. “You know, we’re thinking, ‘We’re in Southern California,’ but yet we have had an inundation that has really, really generated a severe amount of anxiety, frustration and difficulty, especially to the victims and those who are actually trapped in their own home.”

San Bernardino County is one of 13 counties where California Gov. Gavin Newsom declared states of emergency due to the impacts of severe weather, including massive snowfalls that have collapsed roofs due to too much weight.

Residents and vacationers trapped in the San Bernardino range have taken to social media to show their plight and wonder when plows are coming.

The sheriff sought to give reassurance that help is coming even if people haven’t seen any plows.

California Department of Transportation official Jim Rogers said crews working 24-hour shifts have removed more than 1.9 million cubic meters of snow from state highways.

About 80,000 people live in the San Bernardino Mountains either part or full time. The county has not estimated how many people are currently in the mountains because many residences are vacation homes or rentals. (AP)