Residents in the mountains east of Los Angeles were growing increasingly desperate Saturday and begging for help as they remained trapped by record snowfall.
Up to 7 feet of snow dumped by the historic blizzard ravaged swaths of California last weekend, but after a week, crews have been stymied in clearing mountain roads and rescue workers have faced obstacles in getting help to stranded residents.
“I feel like I’m never going to get out here,” resident Marcia Woloshun, who hasn’t been able to leave her San Bernardino County home for a week, told USA Today.
Plows are finding it difficult to dig out the 10-foot walls of snow that engulfed the region.
“We’re going to dig you out and we are coming. We are making tremendous progress,” San Bernardino County Sheriff Shannon Dicus said Friday morning. “There are snowplows everywhere and you are going to see direct relief coming to your doorsteps shortly.”
The White House had not yet acted Saturday on a request from California lawmakers for President Biden to declare a federal disaster in response to the winter storms.
The county created a snow removal map online so residents could track progress, but Saturday, it showed that just 61% of the region’s roadways were clear.
Efforts to deliver food and other relief supplies via helicopter were expected to resume Saturday after being stymied the day earlier, the San Bernadino Sun reported.
Flights are operated by a nonprofit volunteer organization organized by residents to shuttle supplies like food, water, and baby formula to the snowed-in zone. Four deliveries were made Friday before the mission was shut down when one of the choppers trying to land in a supermarket parking lot had to abandon the effort because there were too many people waiting to receive supplies, and because private aircraft aren’t permitted to land in disaster areas, the sheriff’s office said on Twitter.
A video posted to Twitter showed residents lining up outside a collapsed grocery store that the country turned into a makeshift food distribution center.
“A lot of our volunteers are very frustrated,” one of the organizers, 39-year-old Mai Vang, who was briefly stranded in Lake Arrowhead after the storm, told The Sun. “I am very sad that the supplies came in, and we couldn’t move it, and people who need supplies don’t have them.”
Many residents were still unable to get out of their homes a week after the epic snowfall. “Hard to line up for groceries when you can’t even get out of your house,” one Twitter user said, posting a photo that showed two stories of snow outside her home.
The California National Guard, which arrived in the area Thursday, is going door-to-door to help dig people out.
Officials are also trying to keep residents from the coast seeking fun in the snow and curious onlookers from attempting to reach the area. An emergency forest closure shut down the San Bernardino National Forest through March 16.
“If you planned on visiting our local mountains for fun this weekend, please reconsider your plans,” the sheriff’s department tweeted.
Gov. Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency for 13 California counties, including San Bernardino on Wednesday. He was then widely criticized for leaving the state for “personal travel” to an unknown location.