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California says mountain residents could remain stranded in snow for week

Some residents stranded in the US state of California mountain communities by a huge snowfall could be stuck for another week, an official said.

The estimate by San Bernardino County Sheriff Shannon Dicus on Friday was an improvement in the outlook, which previously ranged up to two weeks.

“We’ve said we could push it out as far as two weeks but because of the state’s efforts and the equipment that’s coming in behind us we’re hoping to drop that down to a week,” he told a press conference.

The sheriff and other officials said progress has been made, but they described severe conditions that, for example, have forced firefighters to reach emergency scenes such as fires in snowcats.

“The enormity of this event is hard to comprehend,” said state Assemblyman Tom Lackey.

“You know, we’re thinking, ‘We’re in Southern California,’ but yet we have had an inundation that has really, really generated a severe amount of anxiety, frustration and difficulty, especially to the victims and those who are actually trapped in their own home.”

A late-February blast of arctic air produced a rare blizzard east of Los Angeles in the San Bernardino Mountains, where thousands of people live at high elevations in forest communities or visit for year-round recreation.

Extraordinary snowfall buried homes and businesses, overwhelming the capability of snowplowing equipment geared toward ordinary storms.

By last weekend, all highways leading up into the mountains were closed and have opened intermittently since then to residents and convoys of trucks loaded with food or other supplies.

Southern California sees rare snowfall as winter storm intensifies

Impacts of severe weather

San Bernardino County is one of 13 counties where California Governor Gavin Newsom declared states of emergency due to the impacts of severe weather, including massive snowfalls that have collapsed roofs due to too much weight.

In the northern part of the state, mountain communities grappling with the conditions have smaller populations and are more accustomed to significant snowfall.

The officials in San Bernardino County said crews were dealing with such tremendous depths of snow that removal required front-end loaders and dump trucks rather than regular plows.

More snowcats were being brought in, along with a California National Guard crew that normally works with California Wildfire & Forest Resilience Task Force on wildfires. The crew will help shovel snow.

While more heavy snow was forecast to arrive in Northern California early Saturday, Southern California was expected to remain storm-free except for possible light rain.

“The weather looks great for the next seven days, and that’s great news,” said county fire Chief Dan Munsey.

About 80,000 people live in the San Bernardino Mountains either part or full time. The county has not estimated how many people are currently in the mountains because many residences are vacation homes or rentals.

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