San Bernardino mountain residents race to stop snow melt from flooding homes
While the most significant chunk of the storm may be behind us, the aftermath has just begun for mountain communities bracing for mudslides and flooding.
"There is a river flowing right down the middle of my house," said Big Bear resident Benell Amoranto.
A rush of water from melting snow inundated the streets surrounding Amoranto and his fellow San Bernardino mountain neighbors after the 11th atmospheric river of the season passed through Southern California on Tuesday.
"We have a lot of snow — melted snow — coming down and we're trying to divert it so it doesn't flood out their hards," said Kasey Powderly.
Powderly's backyard has turned into a creek, bringing with it waves of water threatening many of her neighbors' homes. Other residents such as Phil Harwood, have already dealt with the consequences of the melting snow.
"We've been trying to get anything we can — wood sandbags, stuff out of the forest, timber — just to block things off," said Harwood.
The residents have been ravaged by storms that brought a record amount of snowfall in late February.
The snow reached several feet high, trapping residents in communities like Lake Arrowhead, Big Bear and Crestline inside their homes. The dire situation worsened as the snowpack blocked not only the major freeways connecting the mountain to the outside world but also the small residential streets between homes and essential stores like supermarkets.
As conditions failed to approve, the local authorities called for help from the state and federal governments. In early March, Gov. Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency for over a dozen counties, including San Bernardino, sending a massive amount of ordinances and resources to the besieged area to help with cleanup and relief efforts. In mid-March, the White House joined in the effort sending the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to help.
The increased presence reopened freeways and brought much-needed food and supplies to residents, especially those in Crestline whose sole supermarket was destroyed by the snow.
The San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors announced direct relief efforts for residents and businesses trying to rebuild in the wake of the destructive blizzard. In a unanimous vote, officials decided to waive up to $5,000 in review and permit fees for those trying to repair their damaged homes and businesses.
"This waiver is important for the recovery of our mountain communities. As our businesses and residents rebuild, we need to ensure that we eliminate as many additional burdens as possible," said Board of Supervisors Chair Dawn Rowe, who represents the mountain communities.
According to county inspectors, 29 structures have been red-tagged, meaning too damaged to be habitable, and 27 buildings have been yellow-tagged, limiting occupancy.
"I'll keep pushing for additional resources for our mountain residents, who continue to impress me with their courage and resilience," Rowe said.
In addition to the waiver, San Bernardino County is offering free food, water and other necessary supplies as well as reimbursing residents and businesses up to $500 for any professional snow removal.
The inclement weather ravaged all of California, prompting Newsom to extend the state of emergency to 43 of the 58 counties.
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