Californians continue to dig out from a series of rare winter snowfalls over the past week that has seen millions of cubic yards of snow fall in the state, the governor’s office says.
California, which as been pummeled with a series of late February and early March storms, has been under a state of emergency since last week.
Gov. Gavin Newsom‘s office said in a news release Sunday that officials have removed more than 7.2 million cubic yards of snow off state highways in San Bernardino County as of March 4 — an amount that could fill roughly 2,270 Olympic-size swimming pools.
In addition, private contractors have removed another 970,000 cubic yards of snow from other routes in the state.
Here’s a look at how the highly unusual snow storm has hit the Golden State — including some of the areas around Tinseltown itself.
Northern California got a bit of respite Monday after a weekend of heavy mountain snow but forecasters said up to several more feet will pile up through midweek, followed by potential flood concerns.
A long stretch of the Sierra Nevada mountain range is under an avalanche warning.
Forecasters, meanwhile, said the next Pacific storm arriving late in the week will be associated with a moderately strong atmospheric river.
“An abundance of subtropical moisture will move inland over Central California along the southern periphery of this storm system Thursday night through Friday night,” the National Weather Service said.
Search crews have rescued Californians stranded for days in multiple feet of snow after back-to-back storms plastered the state’s mountain communities and trapped many in their homes.
In Inyo County on the eastern side of the Sierra Nevada, volunteer rescuers tried for days to locate a man who was last heard from Feb. 24 before he drove out from the community of Big Pine. The California Highway Patrol identified a cellphone ping linked to the man Thursday and sent a helicopter crew that spotted a partly snow-covered vehicle with the man waving inside, sheriff’s authorities said in a statement.
In the San Bernardino Mountains, sheriff’s authorities on Friday rescued a pair of 17-year-olds who had set out to hike a section of the Pacific Crest Trail. They were prepared for a long hike with backpacks, sleeping bags and food but not for the massive snowstorm that followed, and found themselves in four to five feet (1.2 to 1.5 meters) of snow drifts and limited visibility that made it tough to stay on the trail, the county sheriff’s department said in a statement.
The teens stopped communicating through an app with one of their fathers, and he called sheriff’s authorities, who sent a helicopter to the boys’ last known location.
From above, authorities spotted foot tracks and followed them to find the teens, who were slightly hypothermic and had huddled together for three nights to stay warm, said Sgt. John Scalise of the San Bernardino County sheriff’s department.
“They knew there was weather. But I don’t think they expected the amount,” Scalise said. “I have been doing search and rescue for, oh gosh, the last 18 years in my career. And I can tell you these kids should have been dead.”
States of emergency are in place in 13 counties including San Bernardino County, where the massive snowfall has closed roads, caused power outages, collapsed roofs and trapped residents in their homes for more than a week.
Some residents could be shut in for another week because of the challenges in clearing out so much snow. The Red Cross has set up a shelter at a local high school, and food distribution centers have been set up in several communities.
Katy Curtis, who lives in the San Bernardino mountain community of Crestline, said she hiked with snow shoes for five miles (eight kilometers) to get a can of gasoline to a family trapped in their house to fuel a generator.
“I’m healthy so I just thought, well, I can walk, and I did. But it was probably the longest day of my life,” said Curtis, adding the family had someone with medical needs.
She said cars are completely buried in snow, and it is piled up to the roof of her home.
“We’re just all so exhausted in every way,” she said.
In Southern California meanwhile, authorities continued work to clear roads and distribute food, water and blankets to residents stuck in the blizzard-stricken San Bernardino Mountains east of Los Angeles.
San Bernardino County said Sunday that 79 per cent of county-maintained roadways in the area had been made passable, meaning at least one lane open. However, the county and state transportation department are not allowed to plow private property.
As of Friday, officials had said some residents stranded in Southern California mountain communities by a huge snowfall could be stuck for another week.
Thousands of people live at high elevations in forest communities or visit for year-round recreation in the San Bernardino mountains.
The estimate by San Bernardino County Sheriff Shannon Dicus was an improvement in the outlook for stranded residents, which previously ranged up to two weeks.
“The enormity of this event is hard to comprehend,” said state Assemblyman Tom Lackey.
“You know, we’re thinking, ‘We’re in Southern California,’ but yet we have had an inundation that has really, really generated a severe amount of anxiety, frustration and difficulty, especially to the victims and those who are actually trapped in their own home.”
With files from The Associated Press.
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