Stop for days as food is scarce in the San Bernardino Mountains

For days, Michael Bowen could see snow piling up outside his home.

Growing up in Massachusetts, he thought he could handle a California winter storm. Most of his neighbors in Crestline told him that snow would never fall more than a few feet in the San Bernardino Mountains.

Then Bowen began hearing his roof creak under the pressure of nearly 6 feet of snow on top of his house. He began to see large trees bent to the ground, weighed down by days of snow and rain.

Bowen’s home in the mountain community about 20 miles north of San Bernardino was surrounded by 8 to 10 feet of snow when he rode down the hill in his neighbor’s 4×4 truck. Bowen doesn’t consider himself a disaster preparer, but he does have about 15 days’ worth of food in his home.

Last week, his neighbor knocked on his house, concerned because they smelled gas coming from the house and couldn’t get to the shutoff valve beneath the snow piles.

He invited his neighbors, a family of four and their cat and dog, to stay with him. He shared the food but could see the panic on their faces. He wondered how long he could wait for help.

On Wednesday, a neighbor offered to give them all a ride in his truck.

“A lot of people are panicking,” said Bowen, who now lives in Montrose with his ex-wife.

San Bernardino County Sheriff and Fire Department personnel load meals-ready-to-eat (MREs) into helicopters for delivery Thursday to San Bernardino Mountains communities.

(San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department)

The California National Guard is expected to arrive in the San Bernardino Mountains Thursday afternoon to help people trapped in their homes for days by heavy snow, officials said.

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According to the National Weather Service, Lake Arrowhead received more than 8 feet of snow in the past week as a series of winter storms shut down mountain resorts and communities across California. Even though the snowfall has subsided, many residents remain stranded as crews work around the clock to clear roads and highways.

Poor conditions have hampered local emergency operations, requiring firefighters to use snowmobiles to dispatch personnel and equipment.

Thursday morning, Lake Arrowhead firefighters responded to reports of an explosion at a home that had engulfed surrounding trees in flames. According to the San Bernardino County Fire Department. Neighbors dug out a nearby fire when crews arrived.

In Blue Jay Wednesday evening, firefighters had to dig through feet of snow to get to a hydrant at the scene of a building fire that injured two people.

The National Guard’s visit comes after Gov. Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency for 13 California counties on Wednesday. The Declaration Provides resources to the most affected counties in the state, including San Bernardino.

The California National Guard Joint Task Force Rattlesnake Unit has been activated and is expected to arrive in Lake Arrowhead from Fresno Thursday afternoon, said Brian Ferguson, California Office of Emergency Services spokesman. The unit typically works in conjunction with the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection to suppress vegetation and wildland fires.

The governor’s order allows agencies such as the California Department of Transportation to contract with out-of-state contractors to clear roads and provide other road maintenance services, Ferguson said.

“It provides significant resources to support the district,” Ferguson said.

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Lt. Col. Brandon Hill with the California National Guard said a rescue helicopter unit is on standby in Los Alamitos if San Bernardino agencies need help.

The San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department will deliver military-ready meals by helicopter to people in mountain communities. According to the department’s social media post.

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