Southern California snow leaves local mountain towns stranded


A view of the San Bernardino mountains from Tennessee street, where the mountains are covered fully in snow (MIA CALIVA/ Ethic News Photo)

In sunny Southern California, the last kind of weather one would expect during the winter months, shockingly, is several inches of snow. 

A Saturday morning on Feb. 25, 2023, slurry rain quickly turned to heavy snowfall, coating the streets in soft snow. Most Inland Empire cities, including Loma Linda, Redlands, Highland, and Beaumont, got to experience this snow for the first time in years.

Many Redlands Unified School District students shared updates on Instagram about their experience in the snow. The snow even interrupted the Redlands High School football team’s pancake breakfast.

Citrus Valley High School student-athlete Elysa Loraine Lebig says, “seeing the snow was really fun, my dog especially loved to play in it” but while still having to attend swimming practice she says “I hated swimming in the snow”. 

For a few brief hours, families could build snowmen or have snowball fights right in their front yard until afternoon rain soon melted all the snow away. 

However, the snow was not a pleasant experience for many others like it was for the valley people. In the San Bernardino mountains, in towns such as Lake Arrowhead and Running Springs, several feet of snow have left people trapped in their homes. 

The San Bernardino mountains are no stranger to a few inches of snow, however, this winter the snowfall has reached a point extreme. Feet upon feet of snow kept gathering as the week following brought more rain and snowfall. Reportedly, over eight feet of snow has fallen on these mountain towns and has yet to melt, causing many dangerous consequences including power outages and collapsing roofs. 

A lady shoveling through several feet of snow in her driveway in her San Bernardino mountain home (Photo Courtesy of  Ashley Ranabauer)

A reminder of the humanitarianism that arises in crisis situations, Citrus Valley math teacher Craig Phillips is one of the hundreds of people stuck in the mountains and has reached out to CV teachers and staff about initiating a food drive to assist impaired families. 

“I have been helping in the community from day one. I have several elderly on my street so I make sure they are taken care of,” says Phillips. 

As a result of the snow storms, families are left stranded in their homes, all in dire need of food, medicine, and warmth. Great progress has already been made with this food drive with CV student Damien Andrews donating over 300 water bottles to families in need. 

Phillips also shares his experiences about the intense labor that goes into snow removal. He says, “[it’s] hard labor removing a week or more of old snow that has thawed and refrozen, often into ice.” 

In quick response to the disaster, California Governor Gavin Newsom declared an emergency in 13 counties and the National Guard was deployed to aid recovery. However, “the county was unable to keep up with snow removal and our street was shut down,” says Phillips.

Most roads and highways leading into the San Bernardino mountains have been closed by officials which prevents volunteers from delivering food and supplies to their neighbors and other hard-to-reach mountain communities. In some areas, communities are left to tough-out the snow and limited resources themselves. In Crestline, the community works together to deliver wood and hot water to neighbors whose electricity and pipes have been destroyed by the snow. 

A sign which says “American Red Cross” leads people in the direction of the disaster relief center at Redlands East Valley High School (Mauricio Pliego/ Ethic News Photo)

Help arrives for residents at Redlands East Valley High School and Rim of the World High School, where the Red Cross has set up a disaster evacuation center for families. According to the Red Cross, families or people affected by the snow will be provided with a safe place to stay, along with meals and snacks, hydration, health services, and more. 

Despite a few days of sunshine, the snow still remains a major problem. Visitors are excited to visit the snow, however, mountain residents don’t feel the same. Phillips asks “please wait another week or two weeks to visit” because of the risks of icy and snow-covered roads. 

What was initially an astonishing winter wonderland experience, had quickly become a disastrous emergency for many, still Phillips concludes, “thank you to those who donated and have supported us.”

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