RECOPIED IN FULL: Emergency response in Crestline, CA

[Everything below is from my friend Rachel Manija Brown, reposted with permission from here. I have used the form on to contact the federal government; you can do the same.]

I have written a post which I have copied below. Feel free to link if you don’t have Facebook. If you do have Facebook, please share it.

Facebook Post

Please share this widely! I’m a resident of Crestline, CA and a former disaster relief worker for the American Red Cross. This is the worst disaster response I’ve ever encountered. One week after an unprecedented snowstorm, we’re in dire straits and getting very little assistance.

Crestline and other areas affected by the San Bernardino snow disaster need help. We need a FEDERAL disaster declaration, door-to-door welfare checks for people trapped in their homes, door-to-door help shoveling paths out of the snow, removal of 10’ and higher ice berms trapping our cars, reimbursement for disaster-related expenses, and permission to return to our homes if we need to leave the mountain to get medical aid or supplies. Please contact President Biden, CA Governor Newsom, and San Bernardino elected officials to urge this help. You can just copy the requests in this paragraph, but read on if you want more details about what’s going on – and my own story.

We are used to snow here, and most residents are well-prepared for a typical snowstorm. Crestline normally gets six inches to two feet of snow. We got over nine feet of snow. Individual residents are not prepared for that, and we are overwhelmed.

Some people are literally trapped inside their homes by snow blocking their doors. Others can leave their homes but not their yards because the snow is over their heads. Many streets are not plowed, so no vehicles can drive. When streets are plowed, the snow is pushed to the sides and forms 10’ – 20’ walls of solid ice which block cars and driveways. The official statement of San Bernardino is that there will be no help breaking down the ice walls or shoveling paths to homes – they are only willing to plow the streets. These are not normal ice berms and individuals cannot break them down! We need help with this.

Many people are running out of food, as the only grocery in Crestline collapsed due to snow and the one in the next closest town partially collapsed. The only food distribution is at city centers, and it’s not in the same places every day. Many people cannot get past the ice walls or walk miles through snow up to their waist or over their head to get to the food. Because the food distribution points rotate rather than being in the same place consistently, people are struggling for hours through the snow only to find there is no food there that day. The sites are announced over the internet the day before, but many people have their internet cut off due to the storm and have no way of knowing where the food will be. We need consistent, daily food distribution sites. We also need door to door food distribution as many people can’t walk to the sites. Remember, our cars are trapped and we can’t drive!

Residents are allowed to drive down the mountain (if they’ve dug their cars out), but if we leave, we will not be allowed back up. No one is saying when we will be allowed back, but officials have hinted it will be at least a week and maybe a month or more. So anyone who drives down to get medical help or food is trapped away from their home with no idea of when they can return. Because of this, everyone is afraid to leave, so we have no way of replenishing our own supplies and no way of lightening the load in general by going to stay with friends. Residents need to be allowed back up the mountain!

Homes and businesses are collapsing from the weight of snow on the roof. We have ten times the amount of snow we normally get in some places, and we need help with it.

As gas vents are blocked by snow and gas pipes are breaking from the weight, a number of houses have exploded or burned down. I have yet to see any assistance shoveling out gas vents. Again, normally we could do this ourselves, but not when there’s nine feet of snow and ice!

Supposedly help is here. None of us have seen it. We’ve seen National Guard helicopters circling, but no boots on the ground. If ever there was a time for a large National Guard deployment, it’s now. The American Red Cross has opened a shelter, but it’s in Redland – off the mountain and 45 minutes away from anyone who actually needs help. We need the Red Cross on the mountain, where they’re actually needed.

We would love to help each other and are doing our best, but we literally can’t get to each other. We are overwhelmed and need help. I am especially worried about disabled, sick, and elderly people who live alone. What happens to them if they don’t have close neighbors who can check on them? We need door-to-door welfare checks.

Here’s my own story. At the beginning of the storm, one of my water pipes burst. The water company contacted me and told me they were cutting off my water. I filled my bathtub and all containers. (I also keep emergency water.) They plowed my street just up to my water meter, turned off my water, and backed out rather than continuing to plow the street. That was a week ago and to date they have been the only official response of any kind I have seen on my street.

Soon after, my internet cable broke in the storm. My 4G and telephone service also went out. I live alone and at that point I had no way whatsoever to communicate with anyone. I am five feet tall and my house was surrounded by snow over my head. I dug my way out of the house in the hope of making phone calls asking for help from a neighbor’s house. Then I discovered that the ways out of my property were also blocked. My driveway was under nine feet of soft snow, and my staircase, which is wooden and very steep, was under five feet of soft snow. Both ended in ice walls about ten feet high. Either way out was extremely dangerous.

I was so desperate that I climbed and slid down the staircase, then climbed the ice wall. I found a neighbor with internet and phone service, and began making calls for help. I explained to everyone that I spoke to that I had no communication whatsoever at my house and no running water, and that leaving my house was extremely dangerous. I requested help shoveling the staircase and for my internet and/or phone to be fixed so I could at least call for help. (I couldn’t move in with the neighbors or go to a shelter as I have pets and farm animals I need to care for.)

The response I got was disheartening. My internet company, Spectrum, offered me a service appointment ten days in the future. The San Bernardino official helpline took my number, but I never heard back from them. The plumbers I contacted about repairing my pipe so I can get my water turned back on were sympathetic, but they all lived in San Bernardino and worked in Crestline, and were not allowed up the mountain. One of them said that he has snow cats and a full crew and asked to come up to help shovel people out, but was refused permission to go up the mountain.

My neighbors shoveled a path up my stairs so I could get in and out without risking my neck. I still have no running water and no idea when that can be fixed. My car in under ten feet of snow and blocked by a fifteen foot wall of solid ice, so I can’t leave. I still have no reliable internet or phone service at my house. I am posting this from a neighbor’s house.

Please repost this to spread the word of the desperate situation and shocking mismanagement of this disaster. Please contact President Biden to ask him to declare a FEDERAL disaster. Please contact Governor Gavin Newsom of CA and elected officials in San Bernardino to ask them to send actual help, not just empty promises and false claims.

Thank you.

Rachel Manija Brown, writing from Crestline, CA on March 5, 2023.

Feel free to copy or reprint this anywhere with attribution.

2 Responses to “RECOPIED IN FULL: Emergency response in Crestline, CA”

    • swantower

      Unfortunately, I don’t know of a specific way to donate — organizations like the American Red Cross can always use it, of course, but since the first-stage problem is that relief isn’t even being *sent* to places like Crestline, money isn’t the most pressing need. Pressure on the federal and state governments to take action is.


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