Residents of San Bernardino Mountains express frustration as supplies dwindle, roads remain closed

Sunday, March 5, 2023
SoCal mountain residents frustrated over road, highway closures
EMBED <>More Videos

People have been waiting at the Highway 330 entrance in their cars for days. Some people Saturday morning drove to get food and medicine, not realizing they wouldn't be allowed back up.

SAN BERNARDINO, Calif. (KABC) -- Some residents of snowed-in communities in the San Bernardino Mountains expressed despair and frustration as their supplies dwindled and roads remained closed in the area following a severe winter storm.

In Lake Arrowhead, dozens of citizens have been teaming up to collect food and other donations, using helicopters and snowmobiles to deliver them.

"We've had notifications of newborns that have no food available, kids that are starving," said Natalia Hinkleman, a coordinator of the civilian response. "It's heartbreaking to see how we civilians have taken (it upon ourselves) to do the job."

Meanwhile, county firefighters have been contending with harsh conditions as they respond to several house fires in the area. Officials believe the recent fires were caused by natural gas leaks that led to explosions.

San Bernardino County Public Works and Caltrans said crews are working 24-hour shifts in an effort to clear several feet of snow and reopen roads and highways.

At a news conference Friday, Sheriff Shannon Dicus had a message for residents: Help is on the way.

"You think that you may not see snowplows and a number of things," he said. "Folks, we're here for you. We're going to dig you out and we are coming."

Frustration is also growing over the closure of roads and highways.

People have been waiting at the Highway 330 entrance in their cars for days. Some people Saturday morning drove to get food and medicine, not realizing they wouldn't be allowed back up.

"They won't let us up. Roads are clear, have no idea why they won't let us up," Nolan said. "They won't give us any explanation, and they won't tell us when they'll let us up."

Cars were also lining Highway 18 on Saturday to get back into Crestline and Twin Peaks. People are being turned away with no idea when they'll get to go back home.

A late-February blast of arctic air produced a rare blizzard in the area, where thousands of people live at high elevations in forest communities or visit for year-round recreation.

Extraordinary snowfall buried homes and businesses, overwhelming the capability of snowplowing equipment geared toward ordinary storms.

By last weekend, all highways leading up into the mountains were closed and have opened intermittently since then to residents and convoys of trucks loaded with food or other supplies.

RELATED: Large 'HELP US!!' message written in snow spotted in Crestline as some residents grow desperate

On Friday, Dicus acknowledged that some stranded residents could be stuck for another week. The estimate was an improvement in the outlook, which previously ranged up to two weeks.

"We've said we could push it out as far as two weeks but because of the state's efforts and the equipment that's coming in behind us we're hoping to drop that down to a week," he said at the press conference.

The county has set up a hotline for residents dealing with issues like frozen pipes, roof problems and food shortages: (909)387-3911.

"The enormity of this event is hard to comprehend," said state Assemblyman Tom Lackey. "You know, 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."

San Bernardino County is one of 13 counties where Gov. Gavin Newsom declared states of emergency due to the impacts of severe weather, including massive snowfalls that have collapsed roofs due to too much weight.