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Big Bear roads open, many opt for Mt. High

January 25, 2010 12:00:00 AM PST
The roads are now open into local mountain communities that were cut off after last week's storms, and supplies are starting to flow in again. But with another storm on the way, residents are stocking up while they can.Many mountain residents fear that another storm could once again shut down deliveries that are just now starting to roll in to the mountain communities.

On the hunt for some staples after being snowed in for days, many mountain residents are finding the shelves bare.

"Everything is depleted. There is no way to get people up and get the supplies up, so the shelves are gone. I mean, there is nothing there," said shopper Richard Normandin.

At Jensen's Market in Running Springs, the produce bins are now full, after a much needed delivery, but there is one main item that is still missing.

"Milk, I mean, that is the staple item that people want to shop for in a grocery store," said Joe Espinoza of Jensen's Market. "You can take a look at our milk. It's like completely gone."

"I was looking for two percent, and I think there is only three cartons left. That's what I was looking for, so at least I found one," said shopper Diane Farrington.

At Neo's Pizza House, the storm has really taken a toll. With missing supply delivers and a weekend packed with customers, they're running out of just about everything.

"I mean we ran out of jalapenos and bacon and stuff to make the dough. We got hit hard," said Nancy Runyon of Neo's Pizza House.

With most of the mountain highways reopen, the deliveries are starting to roll in. Gas stations have been refueled and stores have been restocked with the necessities. But with more snow on the way, mountain residents know that they're in a race against Mother Nature.

"We're hoping to get them tomorrow before the storm hits, because otherwise, we're going to be in bigger trouble," said Runyon.

With milk being the hot commodity that residents are seeking, many will be glad to know that it will be one of the first big deliveries Tuesday at 8 a.m. Hopefully, it will make it up the mountain before the storm arrives. If it's anything like the last week's storm, residents, skiers and snowboarders alike can expect closed roads just like last time.

Big Bear Lake has not seen a storm this strong since1969 with more than five feet of fresh powder, creating drifts as high as six to seven feet in some places. These conditions were great for skiers and snowboarders, but they had no way to reach the mountain until Monday afternoon due to closed roads.

"I think they really got their head stuck in the snow for lack of better words this time around. It's Monday, the storm's been over for three days. Come on guys, get it together," said snowboarder George Avery.

"I wish there could have been some kind of notice. I wish even further down the mountain, they could have told somebody because the Web site, everything that I checked said everything was open and good to go," said snowboarder Eric George.

The problem was the lack of resources to handle the volume. Authorities kept the public out until trucks were able to resupply Big Bear Lake with food and fuel. Stores in the area are reporting that they've received deliveries of food and other supplies Monday afternoon.

"We need the fuel to run the generators, and some areas are experiencing some loss of power," said California Highway Patrol Sgt. Sal Suarez.

Suarez said residents have had to stay at the Red Cross shelter because they've been snowed in. Authorities said there were eight people who stayed the night at a shelter set up at Big Bear Middle School.

"I've lived up here 15 years and I've never seen nothing like this, nothing at all like this," said one Big Bear resident staying at the shelter. His home is still without power, and he has been at the shelter for several days.

"We had no heat. And I hope my wife is not watching this, but I burned some of the furniture," he said.

Authorities say that about 200 residents are still without power, and they don't expect to get the power restored for another few days.

"It's been tiring because we had no electricity and no cell phones and a newborn baby two weeks old and my 2-year-old was sick, so the fire department had to come get us with a snow cat and take her to the ER because she got pretty sick," descried another Big Bear resident Julie Salmon, who evacuated her home on Friday night.

Even though epic snowfall brings tourism dollars, mountain residents understood the decision to only allow delivery trucks, emergency personnel and residents access to the area over the weekend.

"It keeps the road safer because yesterday was a mad house on the road," said Tyler Makeig of Running Springs.

As far as schools go, all schools in the Big Bear Valley Unified School District will remain closed Tuesday.

The snow also fell in buckets at another popular ski and snowboarding spot in Wrightwood.

Many frustrated skiers and snowboarders who couldn't make it to Big Bear Monday made do at Mountain High in Wrightwood instead, boosting business in that mountain community.

Mountains residents are getting ready for a storm but not many of them are bummed. Simply put, snow means money. At the Mountain High Ski Resort, there are long lines at the lifts, and they have night skiing, so residents are completely pumped about this and all of this snow means cash registers all throughout Wrightwood are ringing.

When the snow falls spirits soar at local ski resorts.

"I love the rain, I love the storm. More snow on the mountain what can you hate?" said a snowboarder.

Mountain High Ski Resort is enjoying its busiest Monday of the season. Thanks to the four and half feet of snow that fell last week. The resort sold out both days over the weekend but was actually hurting during the storms.

"In Southern California, people don't go snowboarding when it snows. They wait until after it snows," explained another snowboarder.

They are still waiting at Bear Mountain. All that snow last week was too much of a good thing. Big Bear is a big mess. The town is still digging out after that massive dumping of snow. There are no such problems at Wrightwood where the roads are more forgiving. However, Caltrans is warning motorists that a new storm is set to hit. There is another foot of snow in the forecast and that means drivers need to plan ahead.

"Come tomorrow, if you are going to Wrightwood, the roads will probably stay open but you will need chains to get up to Wrightwood Mountain High," warned Terri Kasinga of Caltrans.

But tricky driving aside, the snow drives the economy in Wrightwood. Over at the Evergreen Cafe in Downtown Wrightwood, more snow means more hungry diners.

"It doubles. We are usually busy on the weekends anyways, but it is extremely busy when there is a lot of snow out there," said Tammy Ogborn of Evergreen Cafe.

The same goes for tow truck drivers. Desert Valley's towing says last week's storm may have actually tripled their business.

"It's just been crazy busy up here. I mean people are off the road, right to left. It doesn't seem to matter whether you got a four-wheel drive or a two-wheel drive, front-wheel drive. They are all over the road here," described David Bare of Desert Valley Towing.

But the hazard is not enough to keep the snowboarders and skiers away. The ski season is really starting to heat up. "As soon as the rain stops, as long as the snow is fresh, we will be back," said one snowboarder.

Caltrans crews say they are working around the clock, and they are bringing in extra equipment.

After last week's storm, they said at some points on Highway 38, they had 30-foot snow drifts on the highway.


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