California Governor Gavin Newsom’s incompetent response to the unprecedented winter storms that have buried mountain towns in both Northern and Southern California under more than a foot of snow has led to the deaths of at least three people in San Bernardino County, and those involved in volunteer search and rescue efforts believe that body count will climb.
While the area receives some snow every year and has snow plows and other snow removal equipment, it received a year’s worth (or more) of snow over a seven-day period. Newsom declared a State of Emergency the morning of March 2 just prior to jetting off for Cabo for the weekend, but the promised assistance from state officials still hasn’t arrived, for the most part — and that’s had deadly consequences.
Longtime resident Susie Newman-Harrison, a private pilot affiliated with CalDART, a volunteer network of pilots who help during disasters, including this one, described the conditions on the morning of Tuesday, March 7:
Humanitarian help is desperately needed for the San Bernardino mountains. The historic blizzard, which lasted seven days non-stop, left thousands of residents and vacationers in the mountain communities stranded, many without food or basic necessities.
Government officials are telling everyone help is on the way, but fourteen days later, we still have people trapped in their homes. Homes have burned down to the ground due to natural gas fires, roofs have collapsed on businesses and homes and we don’t know who’s alive or deceased.
At this time, a full Search and Rescue has not been implemented in the mountains. We don’t know how many are still alive or dead. Some of our local volunteers do know neighbors that were in their homes and are no longer answering calls or knocks on their doors. The locals are trying to implement a search and rescue on foot on their own. As of today, we haven’t seen the National Guard as promised by our government officials. We’ve seen Fire Dept vehicles from other regional areas assisting but no other help.
Some locals said the help was offered but declined. Social media celebrity “Heavy D” reached out to us and is on his way to support from Salt Lake City, Utah to assist our volunteers with more than 40 heavy and unique equipment operators; and have put out a call for volunteers nationwide for help.
Humanitarian help is desperately needed for the San Bernardino mountains. The historic blizzard, which lasted seven days non-stop, left thousands of residents and vacationers in the mountain communities stranded, many without electricity, heat, food or basic necessities.
Most main roads have been partially plowed, but most are either one lane or 1-1/2 lanes, making it difficult and unsafe for people to travel, since heavy equipment is still operating on the roads. Many local streets are still under five feet of snow, and people are still walking miles through five-to-ten foot snow seeking help and food.
Some people have walked to food distribution areas operated by local volunteers, just to find that all the food had already been distributed. We are asking the public, restaurants, grocery stores, and churches to help with food donations.
Volunteers from throughout our community hiked through the snow to find entire neighborhoods buried. There were collapsed roofs and stranded residents, especially in the Valley of Enchantment, Valley View and Cedar Pines Park areas. The roads were accessible only by foot because they had not been plowed.
There are four CalDart helicopters doing air drops with food and medicine. CalDart has over 30 years’ experience with disaster rescue operations, so we are blessed to have their help. Weather conditions can be challenging, so when they can’t fly delivery shifts to ground support. The volunteers were granted government permission to travel on Hwy 18 and Hwy 330 to get relief supplies.
Newman-Harrison told RedState that during typical winter storms the county pre-treats the roads and snowplows are operating throughout the storm to prevent large accumulations, but that didn’t happen during this storm, even during breaks in the weather. She and other year-round residents sprung into action as soon as the snow stopped, working to dig people out of their homes and help elderly and disabled neighbors, and to gather food and necessary supplies to distribute to those in need. When Newsom declared a State of Emergency on the morning of Thursday, March 2, she believed that help would be there quickly, but those hopes were dashed when she learned that the California Highway Patrol wasn’t allowing supply trucks up the mountain even after the main roads up were clear. (San Bernardino County authorities maintain that supply trucks have been allowed up, but volumes of residents say that’s not true.)
Newman-Harrison said that CalDART’s volunteer efforts were stymied by local officials, who refused to allow helicopters to land on Friday, March 3, when the weather was clear and perfect for relief efforts. Pilots were even told that they’d be cited if they attempted to fly up the mountain, even though local officials have no authority over pilots.
Officials later gave differing reasons for not allowing helicopters to land, calling social media posts to that point “misinformation.” One reason given was that it wasn’t safe to land in the parking lot it was attempting to land in because people were gathered there to receive food. The other was that “private aircraft are forbidden from landing in declared disaster areas.” Residents were furious that the needed supplies were turned away, so it seems likely they would have moved if they knew they needed to so the helicopters could land.
Another local, Kristy Baltezore, started a database allowing people living on the mountain to submit information about where they are and what they need after a close friend died in the storm. She told Fox LA:
“We went to check on her, and she was dead in her home,” said Baltezore. “She was not ill, she was not disabled. She was a very active, vibrant person. But there’s, in my mind, no other explanation for her death except that she froze.”
“We are asphyxiating because the heat sources up here are mostly gas and there’s so much snow on the roofs that the exhaust pipes are blocked,” Baltezore said.
Baltezore said she’s offered the data to San Bernardino County agencies, but none have accepted it.
“None of us are first responders,” Baltezore said. “We’re just neighbors that care about our neighbors and want to see them again, and we don’t want to see them come out here in body bags.”
Baltezore said that Los Angeles County’s Urban Search and Rescue team reached out to her after seeing her post. San Bernardino County Fire confirmed to FOX 11’s Cristy Fajardo that they did receive an offer of aid from that department, but turned them down, saying they already have enough people with that expertise on the mountain.
According to Newman-Harrison, officials do not have enough people with that expertise on the mountain. In a Monday morning interview with RedState, Newman-Harrison expressed that the two things their volunteer group needed were a grid from the power company showing which neighborhoods did not have power, and trained search and rescue volunteers so they could get to people before they freeze to death or die of starvation or dehydration — and before yet another storm arrives Friday. She said that storm is supposed to be rain, which will turn the massive mountains of snow into chunks of ice and make it much more challenging to navigate. RedState passed those requests on to Republican members of California’s congressional delegation, but it’s unclear whether it made a difference.
Residents have started a Change.org petition to ask Newsom to request a federal disaster declaration, and Republican Rep. Jay Olbernolte, who represents the area, has been pushing Newsom to do the same since Friday. Newsom has ignored those requests as of the time of publication.
However, even people who have vacation homes in the area but live full-time down the mountain jumped into action to help their neighbors, like Bill Bush did:
The local mountains…
As my neighbor put it in my phone call to her…”Things are getting desperate up here Bill. We’re…
Posted by Bill Bush on Monday, March 6, 2023
Year-round residents have ensured that their gas lines are functional, but they say that they can still smell natural gas in the air and don’t know which homes it’s coming from. They’ve called both 911 and the gas company for days and say that 911 tells them to call the gas company and the gas company tells them to call 911, as described in this news report:
When the National Weather Service issued a blizzard warning for the San Bernardino County mountains early on February 22, they predicted that the San Bernardino mountains would get “several feet” of snow in the storm, which was expected to last several days. The snow didn’t stop falling until Wednesday, March 1, and snowfall totals ended up being closer to 12 feet.
Around 80,000 people live in the area year-round, but it is generally a vacation community that people visit for skiing/snowboarding in the winter and lake life in the summer. The population grew during the pandemic as people who could now work remotely took the opportunity to flee Los Angeles. The county has historically been a conservative stronghold, and while Democrats have made strong inroads in the county, the county voted to study seceding from California in the November 2022 election because many feel that they don’t get their fair share of resources from the state government.
Many conservatives debating the issue on Twitter have said that either they don’t care about the people suffering because California keeps voting for Gavin Newsom and they get what they deserve, or that the people should have been prepared because there was a blizzard warning.
Aside from the fact that these are human beings, some of whom are elderly or disabled, and deserve help for that reason alone, there are a few other reasons that line of thinking is flawed and those who embrace it are inhumane and ignorant. First, judging a person’s worthiness to receive help based on their assumed — or even actual — political affiliation is asinine, childish, and something a leftist would do. It’s also not a very effective way to convince people that conservatives are not cold-hearted monsters. Second, as shown above, the people in this county do not support Newsom. All evidence shows that Newsom is actively punishing them for that. Third, in the Biden economy, how many people can afford to have two weeks of food stocked up? Fourth, there was barely more than 36 hours of warning for this storm, and many of the year-round residents work down the mountain. Lastly, weather forecasts, especially regarding storms, are usually hyped. That definitely doesn’t mean that one should ignore them or discount them, but it does have the effect of people taking them less seriously.
Sure, people should be self-reliant and not depend on the government. But I doubt that many people in this country have enough supplies on hand to go a week without power, and even then there are some supplies (such as medication/medical supplies, infant formula, diapers) that one cannot necessarily stock up on due to the way they’re dispensed or the prohibitive cost.
Fortunately for the people stuck on the mountain, local media and even national media are not sugarcoating the story, and it’s getting a lot of attention. Unfortunately, the voluminous pieces are not getting Gavin Newsom’s attention. Here’s what good ol’ Gav’s been tweeting since March 3:
Oh, and those CAL FIRE “workers” shoveling snow? They’re inmates. In addition to abandoning people trapped in freezing homes, Newsom found the time to release a statement dissing Ron DeSantis prior to DeSantis’s weekend appearances in California. But all he could muster up for San Bernardino County were a few deceptive retweets to make it seem like the state was doing something.
And while Newsom was down in Mexico, Acting Governor Eleni Kounalakis was similarly unresponsive. Her official Twitter account hasn’t seen activity since January 25, and from her personal Twitter account it was clear that she took the weekend off for her birthday. She tweeted a picture of herself with a birthday dessert on Friday night, then wasn’t heard from again until Sunday night, after Newsom had returned.
Weekends with @KounalakisM ❤️ Jumping on the 22 to get out of the rain! pic.twitter.com/W6ISb0NQVT
— Eleni Kounalakis (@EleniForCA) March 6, 2023
To sign the Change.org petition, click here. To help Operation Mountain Strong continue to deliver supplies to those in need, click here.