Trapped California’s Mountain Residents Plea for Help

The historic storm that swept through California over the last week—prompting Gov. Gavin Newsom to declare a state of emergency March 1—has passed.

But for residents living in San Bernardino Mountain communities, the nightmare has only just begun, as many remain snowed in rationing food, medications, water, and heat.

“I can’t even walk 50 feet because it’s up to my shoulders,” Lake Arrowhead resident Becky Gardner told The Epoch Times.

Epoch Times Photo
A collage of screenshots taken on March 3, 2023 of Lake Arrowhead resident Becky Gardner’s backyard before and after a major storm swept across Southern California. (Courtesy of Becky Gardner)

Gardner said she panicked when she saw pictures on social media of some locals spending hours digging out snow from on-top gas meters to prevent gas leaks. Melting snow, experts say, can block a vent on a meter’s regulator disrupting gas pressure which could lead to a fire or explosion.

The San Bernardino County Fire Department advised residents to do so if they can get to their meters safely, according to a March 2 post on Twitter.

Gardner said she is concerned for her elderly neighbors, who have also been stuck inside for over a week. With uncertainty of when roads will be cleared, she said she is preparing to save her last logs of wood for her fireplace.

Like Gardner, anxiety and frustration have been mounting for some residents who remain trapped.

“It’s been about 10 days,” Lake Arrowhead resident Casey McLelland told The Epoch Times.

McLelland said the family has lived in the area since the 1970s and they say they’ve never seen anything like this.

“This is truly, truly one of a kind,” she said.

Epoch Times Photo
(Courtesy of Casey McLelland)

She said her 90-year-old grandmother, who lives across town by herself, is out of medication for her arthritis and has been without heat since last night.

She said she is losing hope and has lost track of time.

“If you have a life or death emergency right now, more than likely you’re going to die,” she said. “I’m not trying to be dire or dramatic, but that’s kind of where it’s at this moment, because even if a fire department gets the call, they can’t get to you,” she said.

According to the National Weather Service, Lake Arrowhead received more than 8 feet of snow over the last week. Normally, the region accumulates around 13 feet of snow each year.

Since the most recent storm, San Bernardino County crews have been working to clear roads as fast as possible and deliver much-needed essentials to desperately trapped residents and visitors.

“They’re all doing the same mission,” San Bernardino Cal Fire spokesperson Allison Hester Lee Told The Epoch Times.

According to Lee, crews are prioritizing locations to clear first based on callers who are without food or water, or have a life-threatening emergency.

Nearby Twin Peaks was hit the hardest. According to county officials, they received nearly 800 calls for help during the storm and now in its aftermath—the most for the entire San Bernardino mountain region.

Across all areas including Big Bear, officials said they’ve received 1,200 such calls ranging from life-threatening emergencies to running low on food and water.

Two Lake Arrowhead-area grocery stores were also red-flagged this week, residents told The Epoch Times, leaving only one open.

One store’s roofs collapsed from snow weighing it down and several house and structure fires were reported earlier in the week, with county firefighters having to dig through piles of snow to reach fire hydrants.

Additionally, residents’ hopes for a quicker return to normal were dashed March 3, when officials said a media report that the national guard was coming in to help was inaccurate.

“What was ordered was a hand crew of individuals,” San Bernardino County Fire Chief Dan Munsey said during a news conference today, flanked by a handful of county, state, and U.S. elected officials.

The crew works with Cal Fire during wildfire seasons and will be deployed to help residents remove snow from roofs, shovel driveways, and front yards, and make sure they are safe, he said.

“Don’t think that this is a hurricane in Haiti, where you see our military there to support the citizens,” he said.

Epoch Times Photo
(Courtesy of Becky Gardner)

Despite the fire department’s efforts to increase staffing prior to the storm, the weather was much worse than what was prepared for, Munsey said.

“It wasn’t just one weather event, it was several weather events that were stacked on top of each other, despite our best efforts,” he said.

The crew arrived in Lake Arrowhead this morning, Sgt. Kimberly Hill of the California National Guard told The Epoch Times, but efforts have been slow rolling, as agencies are prioritizing each call by severity and working diligently to clear roads.

“Folks, we’re here for you. We’re going to dig you out and we are coming,” San Bernardino County Sheriff Shannon Dicus said.

It’s unclear how many homes and businesses have been destroyed or damaged by the storm but Congressman Jay Obernolte (R-Big Bear Lake) urged residents March 3 to keep track, as California lawmakers are preparing to ask for natural disaster federal assistance from President Joe Biden.

“The enormity of this event is hard to comprehend,” Republican Assemblyman Tom Lackey said during Friday’s press conference. “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.”

For all life-threatening emergencies, call 911. For those running out of supplies and are without heat authorities said to call 909-387-3911.

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