Heavy snowfall leaves some California residents trapped in homes

Officials say that residents of mountain communities in Southern California could be stranded for another week by snow.

Snowy mountains in the background behind the Hollywood sign in Los Angeles
A snow-covered mountain range towers behind the Hollywood sign on March 2 [Marcio Jose Sanchez/AP Photo]

People in California are struggling to cope with heavy snowfall that has caused power outages and travel complications, while trapping some people inside their homes.

Some mountain communities in Southern California have received as much as three metres (10 feet) of snow in the last week, according to the National Weather Service (NWS), leaving rescue workers exhausted as they attempt to respond to an influx of calls for assistance.

Speaking at a press conference on Friday, San Bernardino County Sheriff Shannon Dicus said that residents of Southern California mountain communities could be cut off for another week as heavy snow continues to block roads. “We’ve said we could push it out as far as two weeks but because of the state’s efforts and the equipment that’s coming in behind us we’re hoping to drop that down to a week,” he said.

A series of winter storms have battered California, bringing the state a much-needed boost to its beleaguered water supply. But the heavy precipitation has resulted in widespread disruptions as residents contend with the extreme weather.

On Friday, the website PowerOutage.us estimated that nearly 45,000 people in California were without power, largely in mountain areas in the state’s Central, Sacramento and High Sierra regions.

On Wednesday, California Governor Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency in 13 counties, including San Bernardino, calling up the National Guard to assist with emergency efforts.

The National Weather Service bureau in San Diego said on Thursday that the recent snowfall has exceeded records set in the 1970s, when many parts of the state last saw snow.

Comparing measurements from its MODIS polar satellite with historical data, the bureau tweeted that Big Bear City, northeast of San Bernardino, “received 82 inches [208 cm] of snow in seven days, exceeding the 58 inches back in 1979”.

“We’ve cleared more than seven million cubic feet [198,218 cubic metres] of snow across our mountain communities, which is unprecedented,” San Bernardino County Fire Battalion Chief Mike McClintock said in an interview with MSNBC on Friday.

“We have more than three to 400 firefighters working around the clock with our folks from local and state and county agencies clearing snow.”

A resident hauls groceries into their home on a sled amid heavy snowfall
Extreme snowfall has left many residents of California’s mountain communities struggling with disruptions to power and transportation [Jae C Hong/AP Photo]

Speaking at a news conference on Thursday, San Bernardino County Fire Chief Dan Munsey said emergency personnel were responding to medical calls, stranded vehicles, collapsed roofs and fallen trees.

“I’ve got friends just a few roads away, and they’ve been without power for days,” Andrew Braggins, who lives in the Crestline area in the San Bernardino Mountains, told The Associated Press. “You can stock up for a storm. But this storm kind of kept coming.”

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies