Sheriff helping San Bernardino Mountains residents who want to leave

As reinforcements were arriving Thursday, March 2 following a record-breaking storm that buried San Bernardino Mountain homes and businesses in snow, a helpline has been established for residents who want to leave, the Sheriff’s Department said Thursday, March 2.

Residents who call 909-387-3911 will be added to a list. The Sheriff’s Department and the county Fire Department are prioritizing who will be assisted.

The residents will be taken to a “central location” to be picked up by a family member or to a shelter at Redlands East Valley High, at 31000 E. Colton Ave. in Redlands, said Mara Rodriguez, a sheriff’s spokeswoman.

A Red Cross shelter is also open at Rim of the World High, 27400 Highway 18 in Lake Arrowhead. Food and water are available.

The Sheriff’s Department also said it was delivering meals to mountain residents via helicopter on Thursday. The department did not say where or when the meals would be available.

Escorts up highways 18 and 330 for people with proof of residency were scheduled to resume at 5 p.m. Thursday, the California Highway Patrol said.

Highway 18 from Big Bear to Lucerne Valley is open for residents with proof of residency, Caltrans said. Intermittent closures for deliveries of food, fuel and medical supplies were possible. Snow chains were required on all vehicles.

Highway 38 was closed to all but residents of Angelus Oaks and Forest Falls, according to the Caltrans Quickmap.

“There is no direct access from Big Bear to Running Springs, Lake Arrowhead or Crestline at this time. Arctic Circle is still closed,” the city of Big Bear Lake said on Twitter.

The 5 Freeway through the Grapevine was open Thursday, Caltrans spokeswoman Allison Colburn said.

Highway 2 in the Angeles National Forest was closed from 2 miles north of the 210 Freeway to Islip Saddle. Highway 39 into Mt. Baldy was closed in both directions from East Fork Road to Highway 2, Colburn said. Those roads were being plowed Thursday.

#HappeningNow: Cal Guard prepares a UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter to launch from Joint Forces Training Base-Los Alamitos in direct support of San Bernardino County and state agencies to assist communities impacted by the recent winter storms. @CAgovernor @Cal_OES

— The California National Guard (@CalGuard) March 2, 2023

Meanwhile, state National Guard Joint Taskforce Rattlesnake was scheduled to arrive in the county on Thursday, said Diana Crofts-Pelayo, a spokeswoman for the state Office of Emergency Services. The team usually assists Cal Fire with wildfires, and it was not immediately clear what the team’s role would be.

More crews from Caltrans and Cal Fire arrived overnight, Crofts-Pelayo said.

“Additionally, aerial assets from the National Guard have been placed on standby to aid with rescues beginning (Thursday) should the need arise,” she said.

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Other information on the government’s plans to plow roads, rescue residents deploy state assistance was difficult to come by Thursday as multiple agencies did not return calls seeking details.

At a news conference Wednesday, Fire Chief Dan Munsey preached patience.

“We’re receiving lots of calls from those residents who want assistance. That assistance has to be prioritized because the amount of resources is finite. If people have food, shelter, water and heat, and they are in structures in good condition, they are going to need to weather this storm,” Munsey said. “As beautiful as our geography is, we do need to have some level of self-sufficiency. … Help will arrive.”

Brendon Biggs, the director of Public Works, said it could be a “week or two” before all roads could be plowed, but the arrival of additional assistance could accelerate that timeline.

“We mobilized all the resources we had available,” Biggs said.

Sheriff Shannon Dicus said the department had made 17 rescues, including several each of off-roaders, skiers and people who were simply driving up to take a look.

“They’ve been rescuing people from dangerous situations,” Daniel Munoz, deputy executive officer over the county Office of Emergency Services, said at Tuesday’s Board of Supervisors meeting. “Sorry to say a lot of those situations (happened) because the public doesn’t heed the information that we put out, so it puts our first responders at great risk.”

This story is developing. Please check back for updates.

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