At around 6 p.m. Monday night, stranded drivers started putting on their chains, preparing to head up Highway 18 toward Crestline, which has been closed because of several feet of snow in the San Bernardino Mountains.  

During the three-hour window, Caltrans escorted 15 people up the mountain at a time. 

“It’s been stressful to say the least,” said Jeffrey Dominguez who had been waiting since Monday morning to get through. “They finally gave us the word maybe 10 minutes ago in the pouring rain, so it’s been rough.” 

Hundreds of students from the Irvine School District were finally evacuated from the Pali Institute in Running Spring and one other winter camp nearby.  

Alicia Shelley said her daughter was supposed to come on Thursday but got stuck there because of the storm.  

“I considered driving up there a couple of times because you feel like you have more control that way, but you really don’t,” Shelly said. “I’ve never driven in a blizzard. I’ve never driven in the snow before, so I didn’t feel safe making the trip myself.”  

Snowed-in students
Several hundred students who attended a science camp in the San Bernardino Mountains were evacuated Monday afternoon after they were stranded by the snowstorm. Feb. 27, 2023.

“This entire time we’ve had them well-fed, warm, dry and well cared for,” said Steve Garcia, the camp’s executive director. “We’re just really thankful that we’ve been able to work it out with Caltrans, CHP,  the county and the Irvine School District to help get these kids home to their families.”

San Bernardino County issued a state of emergency, saying there’s no timetable for when the mountain will be open or safe for local travel. The same goes for State Route 330. 

“Caltrans didn’t have enough people as well as equipment to keep up with the storm, so it just kept getting backed up and backed up,” Rhyan Mohatt, with the California Highway Patrol’s Victorville Office, said.  

People on both sides of the Highway 18 closure who have been waiting to get through since Friday have grown increasingly frustrated. Some were hopeful the roadway might reopen Monday morning, but that did not happen. 

Big Bear Lake city workers, Caltrans and the California Highway Patrol worked to escort delivery trucks up the roadway, but residents still couldn’t get through. 

Some drivers tried driving around the road barriers but were stopped by San Bernardino police and the CHP. One man even took a snowmobile up the mountain, since authorities were not allowing cars through. 

Caltrans said it will announce the next round of escorts up the mountain tomorrow at 11 a.m. and says that if traffic becomes a problem, it will have to stop future escorts because the focus is on helping local residents who have been displaced.