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California mountain towns cut off for a week after 10 feet of snow

Emergency responders using snowcats to rescue vulnerable residents

Louise Boyle
Senior Climate Correspondent, New York
Monday 06 March 2023 14:56 GMT
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Fire crews dig out hydrant to fight blaze following heavy snowfall in California

Residents of some California mountain towns have been cut off for days following historic levels of snowfall.

Repeated snow storms have impacted California this week from the northern stateline with Oregon to the US-Mexico border. As much as 10 feet of snow has fallen in high-elevation communities east of Los Angeles blocking roads, downing power lines and trapping some residents in their homes.

In the ski resort of Crestline, the roof of the only grocery store collapsed under the weight of snow. One man explained how he and his girlfriend had been forced to spend nearly a week paying for a hotel after their SUV was buried and they couldn’t return home to San Bernardino, 45 minutes away.

“We knew there was going to be a snowstorm,” James Norton, 39, told The Associated Press. “We didn’t know it was going to be a disaster.”

California Governor Gavin Newsom declared an emergency in 13 counties and had drafted in the National Guard to help.

Elderly and vulnerable people were being evacuated using snowcats and two shelters had been set up for residents in San Bernardino County.

Coordinated efforts were underway to get food, fuel, medication, baby formula and others supplies up to mountain residents as crews continued to remove snow and debris from roads, public officials said.

Emergency services were also battling through heavy drifts to respond to gas leaks and storm-related fires. Two house explosions were reported in the San Bernardino mountain towns of Rimforest and Lake Arrowhead, and believed to have been caused by the extreme conditions.

Fire departments asked residents to dig out hydrants where possible to save them hunting around in the snow in the midst of an emergency.

Avalanches and rockslides were reported following the heavy precipitation. The Mount Baldy snow area, close to Los Angeles, would remain closed until further notice due to avalanche danger, officials said.

Yosemite National Park was also closed indefinitely after record-breaking snowfall increased the risk of avalanches.

State officials urged residents to keep off mountain roads this weekend so first responders could get through.

Many roads remain closed and more than 51,000 customers were in blackout on Friday morning, according to utility tracker poweroutage.us.

Los Angeles International Airport had cancelled nine flights and was experiencing around 70 delays today. At San Francisco’s major airport, 46 flights were delayed and eight had been cancelled.

But the snowstorms had one advantage for California – it made a dent in the state’s ongoing drought. Around half of the state is no longer in a state of drought, the US government monitor reported this week, but lack of groundwater will remain a problem.

Dry and warmer weather with clear skies was forecast for Friday, according to the National Weather Service’s regional LA office. Some light rain and cloudy conditions will be possible on Saturday night or Sunday and temperatures will slowly get warmed at the beginning of the week.

But California was not out of the woods yet. Further north, the NWS’s Sacramento office warned that another strong winter storm would bring more heavy snow to the mountains and foothills this weekend

A potent winter storm will also bring heavy snow and ice from the Upper Midwest through New England on Friday and Saturday, according to the NWS.

Severe thunderstorms were also threatening damaging winds and tornadoes over the Southeast and risk of flooding in the Ohio Valley.

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