Ineffective Snowplows Leave Mountain Residents Stranded

California officials concede storms overwhelmed them
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 4, 2023 5:20 PM CST
California Officials Concede Snowfall Overwhelmed Them
California crews search Thursday for a missing person near Death Valley National Park.   (InyoSAR via AP)

With residents stranded by snowstorms for more than a week pleading for help and trying to dig themselves out—while dealing with gas leaks and running out of food—officials in San Bernardino County conceded they weren't prepared for this. Neither were residents. "We're just all so exhausted in every way," said Katy Curtis of Crestline, who put on snowshoes and hiked five miles to take a can of gasoline needed to run a generator to a family trapped in a house. Crews have been working around the clock to get to snowed-in communities after the county's snowplows were unable to clear mountain roads, the Los Angeles Times reports.

"I'd say we learned some valuable lessons," said county Fire Chief Dan Munsey. "Unfortunately, the snow came down so quickly and stacked up so quickly those front-end plows that we're so used to using on a routine basis became ineffective." Back-to-back storms dumped 12 feet of snow on Running Springs, 11 at Big Bear Lake, and more than 9 at Lake Arrowhead, the National Weather Service reported. Crews also have responded to more house fires than usual, which may be caused by gas leaks; one incident commander hadn't slept for four days, Munsey said. Emergency officials asked residents to clear away snow around hydrants and gas meters.

Collapsed roofs are a problem, too, per the Times. There's food that people need inside Goodwin & Son's Market in Crestline, but the building got a red tag after its roof fell in.
Crews are still searching for some missing residents, though dramatic rescues have taken place. A sheriff's helicopter landed in deep snow to pick up two 17-year-old hikers who'd been on the Pacific Crest Trail for five days. Some of the stranded people might be stuck for another week, officials said. (More California storms stories.)

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