Recent storms may have inundated Tahoe with huge piles of snow, but they hit the Southern California mountain town of Crestline much harder—cutting it off from the world. After 10 feet of snow blanketed some parts of the community two weeks ago, the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Office has only recently been able to get back in. Rescue operations have been ongoing to help residents get out of their homes safely.
“Unfortunately, they took our snow plows away and put them on the Cajon Pass,” Laurie Bush, a spokesperson for the sheriff’s department, said, referring to the heavily traveled Interstate 15 between the city of San Bernardino and the Antelope Valley to the north. “Everybody up here has been stuck the last few days before search and rescue operations started, with all kinds of agencies helping.”
Here’s the view driving into Crestline, CA where residents here in the San Bernardino Mountains became trapped by a strong winter storm. Main roads are now clear, but general traffic is still barred from coming up the mountain @foxweather pic.twitter.com/XU8bcgIRfl— Max Gorden (@Max_Gorden) March 6, 2023
Crestline residents, many of them seniors, were effectively trapped in their houses with dwindling supplies and medications. Bush was unable to provide a precise number of evacuees, adding that authorities do not know how many people may still require assistance.
“We can only base it on the calls in, asking for help,” Bush said. “We’re way over our normal amount of calls. Usually, it’s 100 a day, and now we’re at 400. They’re almost all wellness checks, so we go out and see if they’re endangered, and then they can be put on the evaluation list.”
CalFire and other agencies have been working to get people off the mountain after the unprecedented blizzard, she said.
The weight of the snow caused the roof of Goodwin’s Market, the unincorporated community’s only grocery store to collapse. Residents had reportedly resorted to a system of mutual aid, and some wrote a giant help message in the snow to draw attention to their plight. On Wednesday, World Central Kitchen, the relief organization begun by chef José Andrés that has worked in Haiti and Ukraine, has set up in a parking lot.
WCK’s Melissa is in Crestline, CA where our Relief Team is setting up a food distribution site for people impacted by recent snow storms. Families can grab hot meals & fresh produce 🍎🥦, along with water, as efforts continue to restore normal access to food.#ChefsForCalifornia pic.twitter.com/prLeNCM7IE— World Central Kitchen (@WCKitchen) March 8, 2023
Somewhat paradoxically, Bush said, efforts to reach the town can add further complications for Crestline’s 9,300 inhabitants. When authorities plowed a single lane of State Highway 18, allowing access for residents only, it created huge berms of snow that effectively blocked driveways. Banks that had begun to melt later refroze, adding a layer of ice into the equation.
“I got my car out for the first time in two weeks,” Bush said. “I’ve even seen CalFire out there shoveling.”
Astrid Kane can be reached at [email protected]