'It feels apocalyptic:' Residents still digging their way out of snowy mess in SoCal mountains

As the days go one, more residents are sharing harrowing stories of survival.

Tuesday, March 7, 2023
'It feels apocalyptic:' Stories from those stranded in SoCal mountains
From an Emmy-Award winning animator shoveling snow to a woman whose car is buried, residents of Southern California mountain towns are still struggling to dig out and get necessities in the aftermath of a record-setting blizzard.

BIG BEAR, Calif. (KABC) -- In Cedar Glen, just southeast of Lake Arrowhead, buried underneath all the snow, is the home of four-time Emmy Award-winning animator John Matthews.

For the past 13 days, he and his wife along with their pets, which include 7 chickens, a dog and a cat, have been trapped with nothing else to do but to get to work.

"Some serious shoveling, like I've never had to do," he said. "This storm is more than double anything we've ever witnessed, and I've been up here since the '80s. The problem right now is, 'Where do you put the stinkin' snow?'"

Residents of Southern California mountain towns are still struggling to dig out and get necessities in the aftermath of a record-setting blizzard last month that dumped so much snow that roads became impassable and roofs collapsed.

Free food distribution centers have been set up at five locations, including Crestline, where a line of people waited Monday to pick up necessities.

Crews with San Bernardino County lifted quite a load off of Matthews' shoulders (almost literally!) as they stopped by Monday to shovel out piles of snow, clearing a path for the animator and his family.

After hunkering down for nearly two weeks, they can finally venture out for supplies.

"You could be trapped with no transportation, no food, no water ... Prepare! This could happen to you," he told Eyewitness News as a message to viewers.

In Crestline, Rachel Manija Brown has been trapped inside her home for days without running water or phone and internet service.

"I have friends I could stay with in Los Angeles but I can't get off the mountain because my car is in 10 feet of snow," she said. "Even if you get that out, it's blocked by a 15-foot ice berm. The city of Bernardino said they will not dig out any ice berms or people's cars. They say the only thing they will do is plow my street. My street isn't plowed."

Brown is now staying with a neighbor after climbing over the ice, still waiting for help to arrive.

"The snow is like 10 ft. high, people are stuck in their homes, it feels apocalyptic out there," said Crystal Nieblas of Green Valley Lake, who's been stuck inside her home for almost two weeks with two young kids, a broken leg and a growing fear that she and her fellow trapped neighbors have been forgotten.

U.S. Congressman Jay Obernolte, who represents the snowed-in areas, reassured the community on Monday, saying the National Guard is there working. He toured some of the most impacted areas Monday and said "progress is being made, but there is still a long way to go."

"I've seen some of the equipment that they have here. I'm very grateful that they're here in our community, helping us recover," he told Eyewitness News.

Obernolte could not say exactly how many National Guard members are working in the affected area, but said 80% of the mountain roads are now plowed. The rest should be finished in the next couple of days, he said.

He's also pushing President Joe Biden to declare a federal disaster for the area.

"It would allow our residents and small businesses to apply for low-interest loans through the Small Business Administration and it would also get some relief from the IRS by making expenses incurred to recover from the disaster tax deductible," he said.

However, that's "down the road" help.

The National Weather Service says the next Pacific storm is expected to arrive in California late in the week, and will be associated with a moderately strong atmospheric river, a long plume of moisture stretching back over the ocean.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.