Stunning snowfall in the mountains of California
LOS ANGELES (AP) — Emergency crews in California scrambled Wednesday to deliver food and medicine to mountain communities under limited back to back winter storms that dumped so much snow that some residents can barely see out of their windows.
In San Bernardino County, east of Los Angeles, plowing is underway around the clock, but it could take more than a week to reach some areas, said Dawn Roe, chairwoman of the county’s Board of Supervisors. Residents are dealing with up to 7 feet (2 meters) of snow, and sheriff’s authorities have conducted 17 rescue operations to help off-roaders and skiers. Emergency crews are trying to reach residents who need help.
The entire roof of the Goodwin & Sons Market in Crestline collapsed Wednesday even as safety inspectors were inspecting the damage. Officials rushed to save the products so necessary for residents from the shelves.
Rowe said no one was hurt.
“We know the roofs are starting to collapse,” she said. “There are other businesses that are likely to suffer from the weight of the snow.”
The county has set up a hotline for residents dealing with problems like frozen pipes, roof problems and food shortages. The San Bernardino Mountains are a major destination for tourism and recreation, but are also home to a large population that resides year-round in small towns and communities around the lakes and scattered along the winding roads. About 80,000 people live part-time or full-time in the affected communities, said David Werth, a county spokesman.
A reprieve was on the way as the mountain community continued to dig out and much of California expected drier weather on Thursday. A key mountain stretch of Interstate 5, the main north-south highway, reopened Wednesday afternoon after being closed due to snowy conditions, while blizzard warnings ended in the Sierra Nevada farther north.
Anthony Cimino, a 51-year-old retiree, said he had been snowed in for about a week in the mountain community of Running Springs. He finally managed to clear his decks, but not for long.
“I woke up this morning and there was another two and a half feet on them,” he said. “It was kind of like Groundhog Day.”
Residents of these cities struggle with so much snow that they don’t have enough space to store it; clearing one area adds heaps to another. On Tuesday, grocery shelves ran out of some items, such as bread, and eggs and milk were running low. Cars remained covered in snow, roads were blocked.
At David and Kelly Gore’s Big Bear Lake home, the snow on the roof now meets the snow on the ground. They have cleared a small area with a shovel to let their dogs out, but mostly they are sitting on driftwood.
“We’ve been through some big storms … but this is just unreal,” David Gura said. “I’ve never seen anything like it anywhere.”
Over the past week, historic snowfall, ice and cold temperatures brought much of Portland, Oregon to a standstill, stranding drivers on roads and highways, paralyzing public services and leading to at least two deaths, believed to be from hypothermia.
As the West Coast grappled with wintry weather, forecasters warned that a powerful new weather system would affect most of the lower 48 states this week. Meteorologist David Roth said upstate New York, Vermont and New Hampshire could get 6 to 12 inches of snow.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, record high temperatures are expected Wednesday along the Gulf Coast and Ohio Valley, while the southern Plains into the mid-South brace for possible tornadoes on Thursday, according to the National Weather Service.
Two mountain highways reopened in Southern California, and the California Highway Patrol began escorting residents to their homes. Anyone venturing up from the Los Angeles area to play in the snow should bring two weeks’ worth of food and supplies in case they get stuck, Roe said. More snow is expected in the coming weeks.
Northwest of Lake Tahoe, on the California-Nevada border in the Sierra Nevada, an avalanche hit a three-story apartment building Tuesday night, according to the local sheriff’s office. No casualties have been reported.
Yosemite National Park has postponed Thursday’s planned opening indefinitely.
Heavy snow is expected to end in California Wednesday afternoon after an additional 1 to 2 feet fall, according to the weather service. Snow began to fall in Arizona Wednesday morning as the storm moved east and was poised to dump 2 feet (60 centimeters) of snow on northern Arizona by morning.
Erin Irwin, a Flagstaff realtor, used a shovel and snowplow to clear the road. This is the 12th snow day for her three children — ages 11, 14 and 16 — since January.
“You’d think my older kids would love it. I think they are all pretty much over it. They don’t even want to play outside anymore,” Irwin said. “Puppy is the only one who still likes snow.”
The Sierra snow cover provides about a third of California’s water supply. On Tuesday, water content in the snowpack — in a state battling a years-long drought — was 186% of normal for the day, according to online data from the state Department of Water Resources.
The next larger weather system is expected to move across much of the country on Thursday, and areas such as the lower Mississippi Valley and Tennessee Valley could see heavy rain, thunderstorms and some flash flooding. High temperatures could top 100 degrees in far south Texas, and windy and dry conditions will create a critical wildfire risk in parts of the Southwest over the next few days, according to the weather service.
Recent storms across the country have delayed travel, closed schools and overwhelmed crews trying to shovel snow and repair downed power lines. More than 60,000 customers were without power Wednesday morning in Michigan, which still recovering from ice storms and about 105,000 customers were in the dark in California, according to PowerOutage.us.
Finley reported from Norfolk, Virginia, and Taksin reported from Orange County, California. Associated Press writers Terry Tang and Walter Berry in Arizona and Tricia Ahmed in St. Paul, Minnesota contributed to this report.