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San Bernardino County declares local emergency to get help clearing snow from mountain roads

Riverside Press-Enterprise logo Riverside Press-Enterprise 2/28/2023 Hunter Lee, The Press-Enterprise
Snow capped San Bernardino National Forest snow level is down some parts of Yucaipa on Thursday, Feb. 23, 2023. © Terry Pierson/The Press-Enterprise/TNS Snow capped San Bernardino National Forest snow level is down some parts of Yucaipa on Thursday, Feb. 23, 2023.

After several days of continuous snowfall covering San Bernardino Mountain communities and more on the way, county officials on Monday, Feb. 27, declared a local emergency to obtain state and local help in clearing snow from neighborhood streets and mountain highways — many closed since Friday.

San Bernardino County Public Works and Caltrans crews continued to work Monday to create access along key routes for first responders. While progress was being made in some residential areas, officials could not offer an estimate for when mountain highways will open to public traffic or when residential areas will be safe for local travel.

“Today’s emergency declaration is an important step, which will elevate the state’s response to this extreme weather event,” Board of Supervisors Chair Dawn Rowe said in a statement. “Our team of state and local partners will continue working round-the-clock on a coordinated and comprehensive strategy to bring relief and resources to our residents, while also prioritizing the safety of all.”

Also Monday, the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services said it it is coordinating with San Bernardino County officials to help affected communities. As an example, it’s working with Caltrans to bring in additional snow plows and road crews.

The San Bernardino County Fire Department was using specialized snow vehicles to access patients in medical need, and the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department diverted resources to assist with search and rescue calls.

Southern California Edison was also working to restore power outages in some areas, officials said.

Officials said their priority is clearing snow and reestablishing access to the primary roads from the state highways, including highways 18, 138, 189, 173, 330, and 38.

Secondary roads will be completed once primary roads are passable.

When storms stop, crews will begin to work on the widening and clearing of roads.

Even with roads closed to the public, Caltrans said efforts were continuing to get essential food and fuel to the mountain communities.

Caltrans officials said Monday evening that escorts up the mountain would be offered for mountain residents who have been displaced until 9 p.m., before affected highways are shut down to the public for the night while crews continue their snow removal work.

Residents of Crestline and Lake Arrowhead were instructed to use Highway 18, and residents of Running Springs to use Highway 330.

Times for additional escorts on Tuesday were set to be announced at 11 a.m., but officials warned if traffic becomes congested, escort operations would be stopped.

An emergency shelter and resource center for mountain residents who cannot get home was established by the county and the American Red Cross at Redlands East Valley High School, 31000 E. Colton Ave. in Redlands.

The shelter will be staffed around the clock and resources will be available until 8 p.m. Monday and daily starting Tuesday from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m.

The county said a call center was also put into place and can be reached at 909-387-3911 Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. to provide information to affected residents.

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