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County Declares Emergency in Wake of Massive Storms

By Kay Towine
Community Writer
03/01/2023 at 03:17 PM

On Monday, February 27, county officials declared the existence of a local emergency after residents of mountain communities found themselves trapped at home or unable to reach home due to several feet of snow that fell over the weekend, with more to follow during the next several days.

The declaration seeks state and federal assistance to clear snow from mountain highways and neighborhood streets and support any other necessary work and services.

“Today’s emergency declaration is an important step which will elevate the state’s response to this extreme weather event,” said Board of Supervisors Chair Dawn Rowe, whose Third District includes the impacted mountain communities. “Our team of state and local partners will continue working round-the-clock on a coordinated and comprehensive strategy to bring relief and resources to our residents, while also prioritizing the safety of all.”

The county Public Works Department and Caltrans crews have been working tirelessly around the clock to create access along key routes for first responders, and progress is being made in some residential areas. However, there is no estimate for when mountain highways will open to public traffic or when residential areas will be safe for local travel.

County officials are working with the American Red Cross and have established an emergency shelter and resource center for mountain residents who cannot get home at Redlands East Valley High School, 31000 E. Colton Ave. in Redlands. The shelter will be staffed around the clock and resources will be available until 8 p.m. tonight and daily starting tomorrow from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. A call center will operate at 909-387-3911 Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. to provide information.

The San Bernardino County Fire Department is utilizing specialized snow vehicles to access patients in medical need. Some areas have experienced power outages and Southern California Edison is working to restore power for these customers.

All agencies are asking mountain residents and non-residents not currently on the mountain to avoid the area and allow road crews, first responders, and supply vehicles priority access to the limited number of roads that have been cleared.

The Sheriff’s Department and other first responders have had to divert resources to assist with several search and rescue calls for individuals engaged in non-essential travel across the mountain region. This is why agencies urge the public to be patient and respect travel restrictions and road closures.

The county Public Works Department has been in coordination with multiple agencies including CalFire, County Fire, the County Office of Emergency Services, Caltrans, and Southern California Edison. Crews have been working diligently around the clock to plow County-maintained roads as quickly as possible.

The priority is on primary roads creating arterial access from the state highways. Crews have been successful in plowing most primary roads across the mountain. Loaders are the primary snow removal heavy equipment in many areas due to the depth of the snow. Road graders and trucks cannot effectively remove snow in deep snow in excess of 3 feet.

Secondary roads will be completed once primary roads are passable. When storms stop, the County will begin to work on the widening and clearing of roads. 

Answers to many storm-related frequently asked questions are available on the County’s FAQ webpage,