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California communities stranded in San Bernardino mountain snowstorm

(NewsNation) — A search and rescue unit in San Bernardino County has been transporting people off of the snowier mountains surrounding downtown Los Angeles for days, but some are still snowed in their homes.

With up to 10 feet of snow in some spots, digging out is a very tall task. Help has been pouring in since the desperate plea in the snow of the San Bernardino mountains late last week. In just the past day, sheriff’s department crews have transported at least 22 people to area shelters.

“You think that you may not see snow plows and a number of things. Folks, we’re here for you. We’re going to dig you out and we are coming,” San Bernardino County Sheriff Shannon Dicus said.

The California National Guard has been delivering food and fuel and helping to clear the snow. But some roofs have already collapsed, including at the only grocery store in Crestline.

Now, there’s growing concern over gas leaks.

“My husband had to respond to one where the smell was so strong, he got to the meter and it was pouring out gas at the bottom,” one resident said, later adding: “We had to deal with it ourselves and fortunately we had the right tools to turn it off, the gas meter.”

With emergency responses hampered by conditions, some residents have risked their lives to turn off meters on their own.

In other cases, gas explosions have caused at least ten fires. Emergency crews are challenged not only in getting to scenes but also in finding hydrants under all of the snow.

Residents who are finally able to venture out aren’t being allowed back in unless they have police escorts.

“I had come down to get my son’s medication. But by the time to come up at 5 o’clock, they weren’t doing the escorts anymore, so I’ve been sleeping on the mountain trying to get up every day,” Erin Carranca, a Crestline resident, said.

The uncertainty even has a breast cancer patient worried about getting back home despite clearance to leave for chemotherapy this week.

“All of them said, ‘Yeah, that’s fine,’ but I wasn’t coming back up,” Stephanie Malika said.

Residents say it’s a nightmare both on and off the mountain.

“The closure might be tonight. It might reopen tonight, tomorrow or the day after, the day after or the day after,” another resident said.

Authorities in San Bernardino County estimate that about 80% of roadways have now been cleared, but some key street closures remain.

Officials admit to a lack of preparedness for the back-to-back storms, which dumped so much snow, so fast, that the usual plowing equipment and strategy became ineffective.

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