Social Navigation

Captured Californians rescued from snow, helped by neighbors


LOS ANGELES (AP) — Search crews have rescued Californians trapped in dozens of feet of snow for days after successive storms plastered the state’s mountain communities and trapped many in their homes.

In Inyo County on the eastern side of the Sierra Nevada, volunteer rescuers spent days trying to locate a man who was last heard from on Feb. 24 before driving away from the Big Pine community. The California Highway Patrol identified a cell phone ping associated with the man on Thursday and dispatched a helicopter crew that spotted a partially snow-covered vehicle with the man waving in it, sheriff’s authorities said in a statement.

In the San Bernardino Mountains, sheriff’s authorities on Friday rescued a pair of 17-year-olds who had been dropped off five days earlier to walk part of the Pacific Crest Trail and had not communicated with their parents in three days. A sheriff’s helicopter flew over the trail and landed in heavy snow to rescue the teens, who were hiking in four to five-foot snow drifts and limited visibility that made it difficult to stay on the trail. department said in a statement.

The dramatic rescues come as California struggles to dig residents in mountain communities out of as much as 10 feet of snow after back-to-back storms have battered the state. Governor Gavin Newsom has declared a state of emergency in 13 counties, including San Bernardino County, where the massive snowfall has closed roads, caused power outages, collapsed roofs and trapped residents more than a week in their homes.

Some residents could be locked up for another week because of the challenges of clearing so much snow. The Red Cross has set up a shelter at a local high school and food distribution centers have been set up in several communities.

Katy Curtis, who lives in the mountain community of Crestline in San Bernardino, said she snowshoeed five miles to get a can of gas from a family trapped in their home to fuel a generator.

“I’m healthy so I thought fine, I can walk and I did, but it was probably the longest day of my life,” said Curtis, adding that the family had someone with a medical need. She said cars are completely buried in snow and it has piled up to the roof of her house.

“We’re all just so exhausted, in every way,” she said.

More snow is expected to fall in mountain communities this weekend in northern California, according to the National Weather Service in Sacramento. There is a slight chance of snow showers in the mountains of San Bernardino County on Sunday, according to the National Weather Service in San Diego.


Associated Press writer Kathleen Ronayne in Sacramento contributed to this report.

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.