Watch CBS News

Gov. Gavin Newsom declares state of emergency following severe storm

617 miles of San Bernardino mountain roads still covered in snow
617 miles of San Bernardino mountain roads still covered in snow 03:40

Gov. Gavin Newsom has declared a state of emergency to help more than a dozen counties affected by the massive amounts of snowfall from the severe storm that passed through California last week.

The declaration frees up resources for 13 counties including San Bernardino and Los Angeles. The governor specifically addressed the massive emergency relief efforts underway in San Bernardino County. 

According to the emergency proclamation, the state will coordinate with Caltrans and the county to bring in additional snow plows, road crews and personnel from the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection to help with the cleanup efforts. The governor has activated the California National Guard and contracted private companies to help remove snow and clear roadways. 

State officials with the Governor's Office of Emergency Services (Cal OES) are also working with investor-owned utility companies to quickly restore power.

Cal OES is working with San Bernardino County to open two shelters for residents and coordinate escorts for power companies, food and water deliveries and service providers for vulnerable populations. 

Those affected by the storm can apply for unemployment without a waiting period. Officials suspended the delay for people who lost work as a direct result of the storm and only applies to claims submitted between Feb. 21 2023 and by end of the day on Aug. 21, 2023.

Heavy snow in Running Springs, California
People walk to an open gas station store in Running Springs, California, though gas supplies are becoming limited as residents throughout the San Bernardino Mountains continue to be trapped in their homes by snow on March 1, 2023. David McNew / Getty Images

The ordeal began last week when massive amounts of snow blocked the major highways connecting the mountain communities to the outside world. In total, the severe storm brought a historic 7 feet of snow to the San Bernardino Mountains.

According to the National Weather Service, Lake Arrowhead received 99 inches of snow and Crestline recorded 91 inches after Tuesday's storm.

Because of the road conditions and the ongoing cleanup efforts, authorities have closed all of the freeways — Highways 18, 330 and 38 — leading into Crestline, Lake Arrowhead and Big Bear. 

According to the county, crews still need to clear 617 miles of road.

For a few days after the storm, California Highway Patrol escorted residents back home up the mountain roads. However, the agency suspended the service on Wednesday as fog and snow created dangerous conditions on the roadways. 

Officials Wednesday morning said the escorts will resume once the roads are safe.  

Some residents have waited hours to days in traffic jams hoping to get back home. 

"We know our residents have been shut in for some, a week," said San Bernardino County Fire Department Chief Dan Munsey. "It could go on another 7 to 10 days." 

On Monday, the situation became so dire San Bernardino County officials declared a local emergency seeking state and federal help to clear snow from the mountain highways.

While the road access has been spotty at best over the past several days, officials have been able to escort truckers to the communities, such as Big Bear. According to the San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department, prior to the delivery the mountain town was "critically low" on gas and groceries.

Despite the efforts, many trapped in the mountain communities have grown increasingly worried as days go by, their supplies dwindle and the roads outside their homes continue to be blocked by several feet of snow. 

"We're out of everything," said Mariam Magana, whose family has been trapped in Crestline for several days. "We have six kids in the house. I don't know what to do. We need help."

Officials reported that over 100 rescues have been staged in the mountains since this storm began. Magana said she has called the county's emergency line, California Highway Patrol and Caltrans but help hasn't arrived. 

Family trapped in Crestline says Airbnb hosts are threatening to kick them out 03:14

County officials at a news conference Wednesday said the emphasis is clearing snow from the roads to deliver groceries, medical supplies and gas to the communities besieged by the snow. 

During the press conference, Chief Munsey told anyone wanting to visit the mountain communities should stay away. 

"As the roads start to open, there's a lot of people that want to go visit the snow. This is the wrong time to do that," said Munsey. "If we have a large amount of people try to visit our mountains communities, number one, they're not going to find a place to park. Number two, they're going to find out that conditions are very extreme. Number three, they're going to hamper with our emergency cleanup and recovery effort."

San Bernardino County has an emergency hotline for anyone trapped or in need of supplies: (909) 387-3911. 

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.