California: In southern California, snow has trapped people for days

John Radleigh thought he was ready for the snowstorm that pounded the mountains in Southern California for a week. A general contractor who has lived for more than five decades in Lake Arrowhead, a vacation hamlet, he had a backup generator and gas for his snowblower. He had enough food to hunker down with his family and chains for his car tires.
And yet, he said, he found himself in a kind of Sisyphean struggle each day. Every time he cleared the snow from his driveway, it would just pile back up. “It’s a little discouraging,” Radleigh, 63, said. “It’s so much – the most I’ve ever seen since I’ve been out here.” In the aftermath of a blizzard that left parts of Southern California buried under as much as 10 feet of snow, emergency workers and volunteers were still scrambling on Friday to help scores of residents and tourists who were unaccustomed to the sheer amount of precipitation – and all of the problems that come with it.
Although the sun has been shining since the storm ended on Wednesday, imposing snow berms still trapped people in cabins and cars in driveways, preventing them from leaving Lake Arrowhead and Big Bear Mountain, normally popular destinations for day-tripping skiers and snowboarders from Southern California. Many have run low on food and prescription medicines. Natural gas lines were fractured, sparking five fires in two days, officials said. When firefighters arrived to extinguish the flames, they found hydrants encased in ice and feet of snow.
On Thursday, Gov. Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency in 13 counties affected by winter storms, including the ones that are home to Yosemite National Park, which has been closed indefinitely, and Lake Tahoe. But his declaration focused in particular on San Bernardino County, which has drawn greater attention because it is less accustomed to the volume of snow that fell there in recent days.
Brian Ferguson, a spokesperson for the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services, said that the mountains in San Bernardino County had become particularly treacherous not only because the weeklong storm was unusually cold and intense, but also because many Southern California visitors might have underestimated its punch. “It’s a place people can get to from Los Angeles quickly, so there’s a mix of people who are not necessarily used to these types of risks and challenges,” he said. “They may have been prepared for several days of snow, but then they’re trapped.” The narrow, winding roads leading into the mountain communities, he noted, can be difficult to navigate on a good day.
The state sent snowplows and crews from the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, as well as the California National Guard, to help dig out residents. CalDART, a network of pilots who volunteer to help with disasters, helped orchestrate deliveries to people in need. Zachary Oliver, who owns On the Mountain Marine and Storage, a boat repair and storage business on Lake Arrowhead, said he had helped coordinate those flights. “It was food, medicine and baby supplies,” he said. “Nobody has formula or diapers – that’s a big one we’re needing up here.”
The San Bernardino Sheriff’s Department used helicopters on Thursday to deliver boxes of meals ready to eat, packages more typically associated with the military or backpackers, to help sustain people stuck in the mountains.
Trapped residents said they didn’t have any idea when they would be able to leave. And those who had escaped the storm waited anxiously at the foot of the mountains to return. In a Friday news conference, San Bernardino County officials sought to reassure residents that help was on the way. “Folks, we’re here for you,” Sheriff Shannon Dicus said. “We’re going to dig you out, and we are coming.” Still, Dicus emphasized that it would take time to clear roads.

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