Stranded residents of Lake Arrowhead and surrounding communities in the San Bernardino Mountains that were engulfed in snow this weekend hope authorities can clear the blocked roads and guide residents up and down the mountains before another storm hits late Tuesday.
Highways to the area were closed last week as a storm dropped more than five feet of snow in recent days. Some residents of the mountain communities are stranded at the bottom of the mountains, while other people who weathered the storms in their mountain homes are snowed in.
California Department of Transportation maintenance crews continue to plow and clear the roads in mountain communities and plan to escort residents onto mountain highways starting Tuesday afternoon.
But residents in Lake Arrowhead said local roads are still high with snow, making a quick cleanup unlikely.
“It’s really bad here,” says Brooke Cutler, who’s staying with a friend in Lake Arrowhead. “People are really in trouble and suffering.”
Roads are not plowed near Cutler. While she has electricity, food, and help digging out snowy vehicles, she is concerned about other people in the area who are elderly or who may have a medical emergency.
More snow is expected late Tuesday and Wednesday, according to the National Weather Service. The storm could bring 2 to 3 feet of additional snow to areas above 6,500 feet in elevation.
The scenery in the mountains is breathtaking, but the region can also be dangerous for those unfamiliar with the snow, said Benji Bakshi, a Lake Arrowhead resident who rents his property on Airbnb. He offered to waive rebooking fees for inbound guests affected by the storm.
“It’s good for vacationers to come and experience the magic,” Bakshi said. “They just have to be prepared for anything and take it seriously again.”
A local state of emergency was declared Monday night by San Bernardino County officials, a move that will raise additional funds to respond to the winter storms.
Lake Arrowhead resident Nathalie Granger said she hasn’t heard much from local officials or seen snow plows in her neighborhood since last week. Her neighbor, who works as a private contractor, used his own heavy equipment to clean some streets in the neighborhood.
“At least now we can reach other neighbors’ homes a little more easily on foot,” Granger said. “We are deeply concerned about how large our county is and the lack of funding our particular district receives for emergencies like this one.”
Officials warned potential visitors that the snow does not provide an opportunity for recreation, as the roads are still too dangerous to cross.
“Now is not the time for people to come up and visit the mountain,” Caltrans officials posted on Twitter. “We need the community to understand that many agencies are doing their best during a major storm.”
During a lull in the weather, the California Highway Patrol escorted buses up the mountain to pick up more than 600 Irvine Unified School District students who had been snowed in at their running springs and Crestline science camps.
The students were supposed to be coming home on Friday, but road conditions were too dangerous to allow the buses onto mountain roads to pick them up, Irvine Unified School District spokesperson Annie Brown said.
The elementary and middle school students were taken off the mountain in two trips Monday by licensed bus drivers, Brown said.