Californians who were trapped were rescued from the snow, helped by their neighbors
Search crews rescued Californians trapped in feet of snow for days after back-to-back storms battered the state’s mountain communities and trapped many in their homes.
In Inyo County, on the eastern side of the Sierra Nevada, volunteer rescuers have been trying for days to find a man who was last heard from on Feb. 24 before he left the town of Big Pine. The California Highway Patrol identified a cellphone ping linked to the person and dispatched a helicopter crew that spotted a partially snow-covered vehicle with a person inside waving, sheriff’s authorities said in statement.
In the San Bernardino mountains, sheriff’s authorities on Friday rescued a pair of 17-year-olds who had been dropped off five days ago to hike a section of the Pacific Crest Trail and had not contacted their parents for three days. A sheriff’s helicopter flew over the trail and landed in heavy snow to rescue the teenagers, who were walking in four- to five-foot drifts and limited visibility that made it difficult to stay on the trail, according to the county sheriff’s department in statement.
The dramatic rescue comes as California struggles to dig residents out of up to 10 feet of snow in mountain communities after storms hit the state. Gov. Gavin Newsom has declared a state of emergency in 13 counties, including San Bernardino County, where heavy snow has closed roads, knocked out power, collapsed roofs and captured residents in their homes for more than a week.
Some residents might have been closed for another week due to problems with clearing large amounts of snow. The Red Cross set up a shelter at a local high school, and food distribution centers were set up in several communities.
Kathy Curtis, who lives in the San Bernardino mountain community of Crestline, said she snowshoeed five miles to deliver a can of gasoline to a family trapped inside their home to fuel their generator.
“I’m healthy, so I just thought, I can walk, and I did, but it was probably the longest day of my life,” Curtis said, adding that there was someone in the family with a medical need. She said that cars are completely buried in snow, and it is piled up to the roof of her house.
“We’re just all so exhausted in every way,” she said.
In Northern California, another strong storm is expected to dump even more snow in mountain communities this weekend, according to the National Weather Service in Sacramento. According to the National Weather Service in San Diego, a light snowfall is possible in the mountains of San Bernardino County on Sunday.