Rain speeds up snowmelt in Southern California mountains

Recent rainstorms in the San Bernardino Mountains have brought both relief, melting much of the snow that had stranded some residents for weeks, and new problems, causing minor flooding and landslides .

In Lake Arrowhead, Linda Knorr and her husband were trapped inside their home for about a week and had to shovel several feet of snow onto their property.

They were among many snowbound by a series of blizzards earlier this month that left some mountain dwellers without reliable access to food, supplies and medicine.

Clearing the highways and steep streets that wind through the communities of Crestline and Lake Arrowhead was painstaking work. Some residents were buried in their homes due to impassable roads or towering snow berms blocking their driveways.

The Knorrs’ street was cleared of snow once during winter snowstorms, she said. Then rain from this week’s atmospheric storm quickly melted much of what was left.

“We had several inches of rain,” said Knorr, 54. “Although more are coming next week, and maybe some snow.”

Up to 4.3 inches of rain fell on mountain slopes in San Bernardino County Wednesday morning, according to the National Weather Service, and the storm had largely dissipated Thursday. Officials said there were no major rain-related issues, despite concerns that much of the snowpack would melt under the new rainfall.

San Bernardino County firefighters responded to two calls late Tuesday and early Wednesday about minor flooding at residences in Crestline and Twin Peaks, but neither required evacuation, department spokesman Eric said. Sherwin.

Landslides hit some roads, Sherwin said, but most rockfall was quickly cleared by crews, never completely closing the roads. The largest slide occurred along Highway 18 near Waterman Canyon Road, he said, though all were typical for storm conditions.

The runoff slowed down a bit on Thursday, he said, adding that while there was still plenty of snowmelt, officials didn’t see any abnormal accumulation of water in the mountains.

Ahead of the storms, residents were told to “prepare for flood conditions” and county employees worked to clear culverts and provide sandbags, county chief executive Leonard Hernandez said during the Tuesday’s supervisory board meeting.

Crews worked to ensure “150 high-priority culverts were cleared”, a task complicated by the fact that “many were hidden by huge snow berms”, requiring crews to use mapping technology and old photos to find plenty, county officials said in a storm response update Wednesday.

Authorities will continue to clear drainage routes and prepare for another storm expected to hit next week.

In Crestline, resident Aaron Creighton said there was almost a ‘little river running down the street’ on Wednesday, although much of the drainage infrastructure has been updated recently and appears to be holding up . Water was still flowing down the street on Thursday, he said, but not as much.

“There are so many things that melt so quickly,” he said. “A few days ago I still had 5 feet of snow on my patio, and I have about 6 inches left now.”

Creighton’s first floor began flooding on Wednesday and remained under about an inch of water, he said, but it took more than 24 hours for a plumber to respond as many people suffered the damage caused by winter storms. The plumber discovered that his flood had been caused by a pipe that had burst due to the cold.

“I can’t pump it fast enough with my little Shopvac,” said Creighton, publisher and editor of Crestline’s local newspaper, Alpine Mountaineer News. “It’s completely underwater.”

Downstream from the mountains, snowmelt intensified as rain this week swelled waterways, turning the Santa Ana River into a dangerously fast current.

At its peak Wednesday afternoon, about 11,500 cubic feet of water per second flowed through the river. In the days leading up to the storms, the river flow was less than 1,000 cubic feet per second.

At the same time, the river’s water level peaked at nearly 6.5 feet, about 4 feet lower than the point at which authorities should have taken mitigation action, according to the National Weather Service.

The Riverside City Fire Department responded around 10:30 a.m. Wednesday to two adults — a man and a woman — trapped on a sand bar near the Van Buren Boulevard bridge crossing the Santa Ana River in Riverside, according to the chief of Bruce Vanderhorst Battalion.

The fire department performed a water rescue and evacuated the two people, who were uninjured, from the area.

Vanderhorst said the people weren’t housed and they offered to put them in touch with their homelessness solutions team, but they refused and went back down to the bottom of the river and set up a new camp.

With most mountain roads reopened and a brief pause before another atmospheric river storm – the 12th of the rainy season – hits early next week, ski resorts and towns are bracing for a influx of visitors this weekend.

Lake Arrowhead resident Knorr said she was surprised when Caltrans District 8 announced this week that all routes except parts of Highway 18 had reopened to all drivers .

“When we have a small amount of snow, people come and they’re unprepared – they don’t have the proper tires, vehicles or chains,” she said. “They park on the side of the freeway and go sledding. It is difficult for our highway patrol and emergency personnel to manage the number of people who come here.

At Big Bear Mountain Resort, employees were preparing for crowds to return to the slopes after the mountains were cut off to non-residents in recent weeks following snowstorms.

“We expect visitation to return to normal levels for this time of the season,” station spokesman Justin Kanton said Thursday morning. “Looking out the window, the top lot of Snow Summit is pretty much full.”

The station was forecasting clear skies this weekend with a small chance of showers Sunday afternoon, Kanton said.

“As far as the conditions are concerned, it’s still amazing,” he added. “We’ve lost some snow to the rain the past few days, but we’re still between 75 and 100 inches, which is phenomenal at this time of the season. Typically at this time of year we are looking at the 1-3 foot range.

Los Angeles Times

Not all news on the site expresses the point of view of the site, but we transmit this news automatically and translate it through programmatic technology on the site and not from a human editor.
Back to top button