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California snow cuts communities and blocks hikers


As residents of California’s mountain communities have been snowbound for more than a week, two teenage hikers lost for five days emerged unharmed amid 5-foot snowdrifts, officials said.

The couple, Riley Ramirez and Cole White, both 17, planned to ride the Pacific Coast Trial near Southern California’s highest peak, San Gorgonio Mountain, the San County Sheriff’s Department said. Bernardino in a statement.

They left on February 26, suffered bad weather and lost contact with their parents, he added. Two days later, family members asked rescuers for help, the statement said.

On Friday, a sheriff’s helicopter crew spotted the pair in a remote area of ​​the trail, landed in heavy snowfall and rescued the teens, who were taken to the sheriff’s station to be examined by staff medical, the department said.

The teenagers told deputies and their parents that they felt assured of their disappearance before the helicopter arrived.

“They told us, ‘We were already convinced we were going to die,'” Cesar Ramirez, Riley’s father, told The Associated Press.

A sheriff’s official told the AP the two survived huddled together but were still suffering from mild hypothermia.

The sheriff’s department has also been busy helping residents stranded in their homes in the snow-capped mountains of San Bernardino and San Gabriel.

San Bernardino County Sheriff Shannon Dicus told a news conference Friday that deputies were directing convoys of groceries and other supplies to otherwise snowy area markets.

Barriers to civilization remained in the area after a rare blizzard brought snowfall measured to 6 feet in places. The sheriff said his deputies faced veritable walls of snow.

“We still have to break down those walls,” he said.

The sheriff’s department called more than 100 residents of Cedar Pines Park and the Valley of Enchantment and picked up 17 who said they wouldn’t survive without access to supplies, Dicus said.

Katy Curtis, from the community of Crestline in the San Bernardino Mountains, said snow had piled up to the roof of her home. She recently snowshoeed 5 miles to get gas to power a generator.

“It was probably the longest day of my life,” she said, according to the AP. “We’re all so exhausted in every way.”

Access to food and other necessities has been difficult enough that the Sheriff’s Department delivers “ready-to-eat meals,” freeze-dried or canned meat rations originally developed for military deployment, to locations remote or disturbing.

The MREs will “help them stabilize their food situation,” Dicus said.

Amid panicked third-person posts on social media about people stranded in these mountains, the sheriff sought to reassure residents of communities hit hard by snowstorms in February, including Big Bear and Lake Arrowhead, that first responders will help.

“We’re going to dig you up, and we’re coming,” Dicus said.

For the past few years, winter was nearly over, bringing snow to the mountains of Southern California in early March. But this year, it’s unclear if more is yet to come.

The National Weather Service has predicted fresh snowfall for the Sierra Nevada Mountains in the northern half of the state over the next few days and the possibility of a light dusting in the San Bernardino Mountains of Southern California during the night.

Courtney Brogle And Jackie Zhou contributed.

Joanna Swanson

Joanna Swanson is Europe correspondent at the Thomson Reuters Foundation based in Brussels covering politics, culture, business, climate change, society, economies and inclusive tech. With specific focus in breaking news, she has covered some of the world's most significant stories.