Rescue workers in California scramble to transport food and medicine to stranded mountain communities on Wednesday consecutive winter storms dumped so much snow that some residents can barely see out of their windows.
San Bernardino County, east of Los Angeles, is plowing around the clock, but it could take more than a week to reach some areas, said Dawn Rowe, chair of the county’s board of supervisors. Residents are dealing with up to 7 feet of snow, and sheriffs have conducted 17 rescues to help off-roaders and skiers. Rescue workers try to reach residents in need of help.
In Crestline, the entire roof of Goodwin and Sons Market collapsed Wednesday, although safety inspectors were on site to review reported damage. Officials ran to salvage much-needed groceries from the shelves.
Rowe said no one was hurt.
“We know the roofs are starting to collapse,” she said. “There are other businesses that are likely to be affected by the snow load.”
The county has set up a hotline for residents to deal with issues like frozen pipes, roof problems and food shortages. The San Bernardino Mountains are a major tourism and recreational destination, but also home to a large year-round population in small towns and communities dotted around lakes and along winding roads. About 80,000 people live either part-time or full-time in the affected communities, said David Wert, a district spokesman.
Reprieve was on the way as the mountain community continued to dig, with much of California expecting drier weather on Thursday. A key mountainous stretch of Interstate 5, a major north-south freeway, reopened Wednesday afternoon after closures due to snow while snowstorm warnings expired in the Sierra Nevada further north.
Anthony Cimino, a 51-year-old retiree, said he had been snowed in for about a week in the mountain community of Running Springs. He finally managed to clear his decks, but not for long.
“I woke up this morning and there was still two and a half feet on them,” he said. “It was a bit like Groundhog Day.”
The residents of these cities struggle with so much snow that they run out of space to accommodate it; Deleting one area adds heaps to another. Grocery shelves were empty of some items like bread, and eggs and milk were running low on Tuesday. Cars remained buried under snow and roads were closed.
At David and Kelli Góra’s home in Big Bear Lake, the snow on the roof is now touching the snow on the ground. They have cleared a small area for their dogs to go outside, but are mostly crouched.
“We’ve been through some big storms… but it’s just unreal,” said David Góra. “I haven’t seen anything like it anywhere.”
Many Lake Arrowhead residents also remain trapped in their homes. There is a state of emergency and supplies are dangerously low.
“That’s the real deal, and there are a lot of people in need up here,” a local told CBS News correspondent Jonathan Vigliotti. “I’ve never seen it like that before.”
In the past week, historic snowfalls, ice and cold temperatures brought much of Portland, Oregon to a standstill, pinning motorists to roads and highways, crippling government services and resulting in at least two suspected hypothermia deaths.
While the West Coast struggled with wintry weather, forecasters warned that a new, strong weather system will affect most of the lower 48 states this week. Six to 12 inches of snow could eventually fall in upstate New York, Vermont and New Hampshire, meteorologist David Roth said.
At the other end of the spectrum, record temperatures were expected along the Gulf Coast and in the Ohio Valley on Wednesday, while the southern plains in the mid-South braced for possible Thursday tornadoes, according to the National Weather Service.
Two mountain highways opened in Southern California and the California Highway Patrol began escorting residents back to their homes. Anyone heading out of the Los Angeles area to play in the snow should pack two weeks’ worth of groceries and supplies in case they get stuck, Rowe said. More snowfall is expected in the coming weeks.
Northwest of Lake Tahoe, on the California-Nevada border in the Sierra Nevada, an avalanche hit a three-story apartment building on Tuesday evening, the local sheriff’s office said. No injuries were reported.
Authorities in Northern California say one 80-year-old woman died after heavy snow collapsed a porch at her home in Foresthill, CBS Sacramento reported. Neighbors were able to extricate her from the wreckage, but firefighters who were at the scene discovered the woman in cardiac arrest when they arrived.
Yosemite National Park indefinitely postponed its scheduled reopening Thursday.
According to the weather service, heavy snowfall in California should end Wednesday afternoon after another 1 to 2 feet of falls (30 to 60 centimeters). Snow began falling in Arizona Wednesday morning as the storm moved east and was poised to dump up to 2 feet of snow in northern Arizona by Thursday morning.
Erin Irwin, a realtor in Flagstaff, used a shovel and a snowblower to clear her driveway. This is the 12th day of snow her three children, aged 11, 14 and 16, have had since January.
“You’d think my older kids would love it. I think they’re all pretty much over it. They don’t even want to play outside anymore,” Irwin said. “The puppy is the only one who still loves the snow.”
The Sierra’s snowpack provides about a third of California’s water supply. The water content of snowpack on Tuesday — in a state struggling with years of drought — was 186% of previous normal, according to online data from the state Department of Water Resources.
The next, major weather system was expected to spread across much of the country on Thursday, and areas like the lower Mississippi Valley and Tennessee Valley could experience heavy rain, thunderstorms and some flash flooding. High temperatures could top 100 degrees (38 degrees Celsius) in far south Texas, and windy, dry conditions would create a critical wildfire risk in parts of the Southwest for the next few days, according to the Weather Service.
Recent storms across the country have delayed travel, closed schools and overwhelmed crews trying to dig out of snow and repair downed power lines. More than 60,000 customers were without power as of Wednesday morning in Michigan, which is still recovering from ice storms, and about 105,000 customers were left without power in California, according to PowerOutage.us.