Snow is definitely not a common phenomenon in the desert of Southern California, especially in the Los Angeles area. However, at the beginning of March this year, Los Angeles and the surrounding counties saw their first heavy snowfall in over 80 years. Pictures of the snowy landscape spread across social media like wildfire. Although this was a euphoric sight for many, it was not a joyous event for everyone in the area.
In many areas at high altitudes, such as the San Bernardino Mountains, the recent heavy snowfall and blizzards have created hazards for residents, dumping up to 10 feet of snow in some regions. The situation was especially severe in Lake Arrowhead and Big Bear, popular places for weekend ski trips near LA, as a large number of Southern California visitors who did not live in the area were trapped on the mountain, facing unfamiliar conditions. These unprecedented conditions have completely overwhelmed the snow equipment used by the cities and forced the county to declare a local emergency, requesting federal and state assistance. The mountainous communities were met with a heavy blizzard that trapped residents within their homes, collapsed roofs of houses and buildings, incapacitated local businesses, and blocked highways leading up the mountains. Even now, rescuers are still in the process of digging out residents and have yet to reach areas deeper up the mountains.
Neither the county nor its residents were prepared for this unprecedented danger. The blocked pathways up to the mountains isolated the cities in the area from any assistance from the county and the state, while residents were forced to live off any emergency food and supplies they had prepared prior to the harsh blizzard. Many were forced to take shelter in nearby schools and buildings, as they were unable to return to the homes which had been barricaded by the snow. First responders of the emergency, including paramedics and firefighters, were stopped by the layers of snow piled on highways and freeways by avalanches that had occurred during or after the heavy snowfall. Local residents and business owners have voiced their frustrations about the seemingly slow response by the county and the overall preparations made by the county.
For the first week after the blizzard, regional services and officials along with the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department have organized helicopters to deliver supplies and resources, including warm meals, medicine, and baby supplies to the residents who are unable to obtain these supplies because of the closed highways up the mountains. The state has also sent snow plows and crews from the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection to help with the situation, along with the California National Guard to help dig out trapped residents. With continued assistance from the county and the state, the communities within the San Bernardino Mountains are slowly starting to rebound and recover from this unprecedented event.