Residents in San Bernardino County Mountain communities continue to struggle, with many of them still snowed in and vital resources, like food, fuel and medicine, running low, though the region is just starting to get some much-needed help.
On Wednesday night, Gov. Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency in response to the recent winter storms that have battered Southern California. The declaration cleared the way for the California National Guard to assist with the dire situation in the San Bernardino County Mountains.
Travel in and out of the area has been crippled by the more than five feet of snow that blanketed the region, prompting the closure of Highway 18. As of Thursday, KTLA’s Shelby Nelson reports that while the line of cars waiting to get up the mountain remains long, California Highway Patrol escorts are running smoother.
Another big blow to the Crestline community was the loss of Goodwin and Son’s Market, the area’s only grocery store. The corner of the roof began to collapse around 4 a.m. Wednesday, while the store’s general manager, Michael Johnstone and two others were inside.
“Nobody got hurt. We did have one staff member in the back room when the initial collapse happened, but he heard the noises, the creaking of the beams…he was able to get out right before the thing crashed,” Johnstone told KTLA.
While Johnstone said they are working to rebuild, other businesses and homes have suffered similar problems with roofs caving in, residents trapped in their homes and many people losing power.
“The power went out on the second day, on Friday,” one resident said. “A tree had come down, took the lines out…and they didn’t cut the tree until Sunday morning. Then we never saw a plow again and the berms were just so high, we couldn’t even get out.”
San Bernardino County Fire official Mike McClintock said structure fires have been a big problem in the mountain communities.
“We’ve had four residential structure fires in the Lake Arrowhead area, which is concerning and a little atypical,” he told KTLA.
Courtland Odin and his wife, Sandra, who have lived on North Bay Road in Lake Arrowhead for 12 years, say they have never seen anything like the recent winter storms. The Odins are without power and with snow blocking all their exits, they are unable to leave their home.
In order to stay warm, the couple has used gas for heat. As for food, they’ve kept perishables in the cold on their front porch.
“My 89-year-old mother-in-law is my primary concern,” Courtland told KTLA.
He also said that they expected more support from the county, a sentiment shared by many residents in the mountain communities.
Another couple is lucky to be alive after a gas leak led to an explosion at their Lake Arrowhead home Wednesday afternoon.
Mike Limpus was attempting to help his fiancée who was trapped under the home’s collapsed roof when the explosion occurred, according to his brother-in-law Daniel Dressler.
“He took the brunt of the explosion. He was in the bedroom when it happened,” Dressler told KTLA.
The couple was rescued by first responders using a Snowcat. They were then taken to the hospital. A GoFundMe campaign has been started after they suffered severe burns and are now without a home.
According to Dressler, the couple smelled gas before the explosion and called the gas company. Unfortunately, SoCalGas crews could not reach the area because of the impassable roads.
When asked about the company’s response to the situation in the San Bernardino County Mountain communities, SoCalGas provided KTLA with the following statement:
“Due to the unprecedented snowfall in the area, our work crews are continuing to experience travel delays in accessing the Rim Forest/Lake Arrowhead area but are responding to calls in conjunction with the fire department. Residents should know that there are no system wide gas outages or interruptions in the area. If a customer in the Rim Forest/Lake Arrowhead area suspects a gas leak, we encourage that customer to safely evacuate the area before calling the fire department.”
Officials with the utility provider have suggested that customers keep their exhaust vents clear, as well as their meters, though residents say the problem is that they’re buried under the snow, and they can’t reach them.