Governor Gavin Newsom has declared a state of emergency in response to severe winter storms that have impacted much of Southern California, officials announced Wednesday night.
“The Governor has also activated the State Operations Center to bring state support to county-led emergency response efforts and coordinate mutual aid from neighboring jurisdictions, especially in San Bernardino County,” the emergency declaration noted.
Residents in Crestline, Lake Arrowhead and other communities in unincorporated areas of San Bernardino County have been snowed in for several days, with many having lost power and running low on essential supplies, like food and medicine.
Travel in and out of the area has been crippled by the closure of Highway 18. Drivers going up the highway are only allowed with California Highway Patrol and Caltrans escorts, and the lines continue to be long.
Emergency response for those stranded has continued, but at a slow pace as crews work to get through snow-buried roads.
County Supervisor Dawn Rowe said on Wednesday that the county’s number one priority is getting to stranded residents and working to provide safe environment, adding that the focus is on providing food and medicine and access to those who need it.
“Plowing of the roads is continuing 24/7. We have thrown all of our assets at this, and we’ve requested additional assets from our state partners and anybody else who can provide them,” Rowe said.
Wednesday night’s declaration by the governor added that the California Office of Emergency Services is working with Caltrans and San Bernardino County officials to bring more snow plows, as well as road crews, and that “personnel from CAL FIRE and the California National Guard are readied to support operations.”
Additionally, the state has contracted with private companies to speed up snow removal and clear roadways, as well as coordinate with “investor-owned utilities to rapidly restore power.”
The state of emergency comes as many residents stranded in San Bernardino Mountain communities have been pleading for help from both local and state officials.
“There’s roofs collapsing everywhere, people are needing assistance and rescues. All of the stores are running low on food and water supplies. The gas stations barely have any gas,” Lake Arrowhead resident Miyah Nelson told KTLA Wednesday. “Mr. Newsom, can you please send some help? We really need the help of the National Guard. We need our roads cleared so that way people can get out of their homes. They’re all trapped.”
The state is also working with officials in San Bernardino County to open two shelters for residents in need and is coordinating with law enforcement to escort power companies, food and water deliveries to the area.
While snowed in residents of the San Bernardino mountains are in the most dire need of emergency services, Newsom’s declaration also proclaimed a state of emergency in the counties of Amador, Kern, Los Angeles, Madera, Mariposa, Mono, Nevada, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, Sierra, Sonoma and Tulare.