Snow in San Bernardino and Gov. Newsom declares a state of emergency

Snow in San Bernardino and Gov. Newsom declares a state of emergency
AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli, File, Pool

Governor Gavin Newsom announced a state of emergency Wednesday to help California counties impacted by the recent severe winter storms.

The proclamation went out for these counties:

Los Angeles
San Bernardino
San Luis Obispo
Santa Barbara

According to a press release, the governor has also activated the State Operations Center to help with county-led emergency response efforts, especially in San Bernardino County.

Residents are dealing with as much as 7 feet (2 meters) of snow, and sheriffs' authorities have conducted 17 rescue operations to help off-roaders and skiers. Emergency crews are trying to reach residents who need assistance.

In Crestline, the entire roof of Goodwin and Sons Market collapsed Wednesday as safety inspectors were onsite checking up on reported damage. Officials raced to salvage food that residents sorely need from its shelves.

Rowe said no one was injured.

"We know that roofs are starting to collapse," she said. "There are other businesses that will likely be affected by the weight of the snow."

The county has set up a hotline for residents dealing with issues like frozen pipes, roof problems, and food shortages. The San Bernardino Mountains are a major tourism and recreation destination but also home to a large year-round population in small cities and communities around lakes and scattered along winding roads. About 80,000 people live either part- or full-time in the communities affected, said David Wert, a county spokesman.

The reprieve was on the way as the mountain community continued to dig out, with much of California expecting drier weather on Thursday. A key mountain section of Interstate 5, a major north-south highway, reopened Wednesday afternoon following closures due to snowy conditions, while blizzard warnings expired in the Sierra Nevada further north.

Anthony Cimino, a 51-year-old retiree, said he's been snowed in for about a week in the mountain community of Running Springs. He finally managed to clear his decks, but not for long.

"I woke up this morning and there were other two-and-a-half feet on them," he said. "It was kind of like Groundhog Day."

Residents of these towns are grappling with so much snow they're running out of space to put it; clearing one area adds heaps to another. Grocery shelves had run bare of some items, like bread, and were running low on eggs and milk Tuesday. Cars remained buried under snow and roads closed.

Blizzard Warning for Southern California Mountains

A blizzard warning went into effect at 4 a.m. and will continue until 4 p.m. Saturday for LA and Ventura county mountains. Snow totals are expected to reach up to 5 feet at elevations above 4,000 feet by Saturday night.

Areas under the blizzard warning include Mount Wilson, the Grapevine section of the 5 Freeway, Acton, Mount Pinos, and Frazier Park. Travel is highly discouraged in Southern California's mountains.

"This is the second time we've seen a blizzard warning in over 30 years," said NBC4 forecaster Belen De Leon. "So we're going to see excessive snow in the mountains and gusts up to 75 mph, plus reduced visibility."

The blizzard warning does not include the Santa Monica Mountains.

The blizzard warning was extended Thursday to include the San Bernardino County mountains. Communities in the warning area are Wrightwood, Big Bear, Lake Arrowhead, Crestline, and Running Springs.

The NWS San Diego office said the blizzard warning is the first issued by the office.

Two to 5 feet of snow are expected above 5,000 feet by Saturday as the storm continues to hammer the region. Some areas could get as much as 7 feet.

Snow accumulations of 6 to 12 inches are possible by Saturday night at elevations as low as 2,000 feet.

As of early Saturday, Bear Mountain Snow Summit received 45 inches of snow during the storm. Snow Valley received 32 to 36 inches, 26 inches were reported at Running Springs, and Lake Arrowhead received 23 inches.

A section of the 5 Freeway was closed north of Los Angeles due to snow and poor visibility.

California Drought Update

The most severe drought conditions that plagued California at the start of the water year in October were wiped out by January's storms, which also were fueled by atmospheric rivers.

In the most recent U.S. Drought Monitor report released Thursday, 33 percent of California was in severe drought, the weekly Monitor's third most severe category. At the start of the water year, 94 percent of the state was in severe drought.

Eighty-five percent of the state remains in moderate drought, the report's least severe category. That figure was at 99.76 percent at the start of the water year.

California has spent most of the last 15 years in drought conditions. The current three-year dry spell included one of the driest late winters on record.

The state's normal wet season runs from late fall to the end of winter, but dismal precipitation left about 95 percent of California in severe drought at the start of spring. By September, nearly all of California was in drought.

Much of California’s water comes from melting snow in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. In an ideal scenario, storms blanket the mountains with snow during winter, building up the natural reservoir. That snow then melts in late spring and early summer, replenishing the state's water system. Snowpack was far below normal in Spring 2022 but rebounded during January's storms.

The Associated Press contributed to this article. This story originally appeared on NBC Los Angeles.

All rights belong to The Associated Press & NBC Los Angeles which is solely responsible for all content.

This article originally appeared in Cold Storm Unleashes Steady Rain and Snow. Here's the Weekend Outlook

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