A 35-year-old man is suspected of stealing a municipal snowplow in Big Bear Lake days after a snowstorm hit the southern California mountain town.
Jonathan Hernandez, a San Gabriel Valley resident, allegedly broke into a secure area at City Hall on March 4 and took off on the snowplow, the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department said.
The snowplow was equipped with GPS, and when deputies tracked it down, they found Hernandez inside the vehicle, according to a statement from the Sheriff’s Department.
No details were immediately available as to why Hernandez allegedly took the vehicle, but a snowplow would have been welcome in much of the San Bernardino Mountains in the wake of recent storms.
For nearly two weeks, many residents living in mountain communities from Crestline to Lake Arrowhead to Big Bear have been trapped under massive amounts of snow, more than 100 inches in some places. Authorities have struggled to clear roads and provide relief after back-to-back storms battered the region with blizzard conditions.
The snowfall buried cars, blocked roads, collapsed roofs and severed gas lines, starting fires. Entire neighborhoods scrambled for food and fuel.
Thirteen people have been found dead since the start of the storms. Several of these deaths are suspected to be related to extreme weather.
As of Wednesday morning, about 95% of the roads in San Bernardino County had been cleared. officials said, but they noticed that many roads were only wide enough to accommodate single lane traffic. Nearly 30 miles of roads remained to be plowed.
On Thursday night, State Highway 18 through the Lucerne Valley was open to all traffic. State Road 38 through Mentone was open to residents only. Most of State Road 18 remained closed.
Hernandez faces grand theft charges, but that’s not the extent of his problems. A background check uncovered an active felony warrant for his arrest, according to the authorities.
In addition, agents were contacted by staff at a local hotel where Hernández was temporarily staying. He had apparently left without registering, and when staff members went to remove his property, they said they found two rifles and ammunition.
Agents inspected the weapons and concluded that they did not comply with California law. Agents then searched Hernandez’s vehicle and found an additional loaded handgun, authorities said.
Hernandez now faces charges for weapons violations. He was being held at the West Valley Detention Center in lieu of $60,000 bond, according to police.
Authorities did not provide details about the snowplow, but such equipment is expensive. A standard plow attachment for a truck or tractor can range in cost from around $1,300 to over $5,000.
weather conditions they remain a challenge in the Big Bear region. Cold rain is expected Friday along with wind gusts up to 30 mph. The rain is likely to accelerate snow melt, which could contribute to flooding, road damage, and debris flows.