Joint MAC meeting addresses storm damage

Jan 30, 2020 | Uncategorized

Staff Writer

At the combined Municipal Advisory Council (MAC) meeting held at San Moritz Lodge on Thursday Jan. 23, County Supervisor Janice Rutherford came to meet with both the Lake Arrowhead and Crest Forest MACs as she usually does each year, this year focused on the topic of the Thanksgiving and Christmas storms.

The Crest Forest MAC members are Chair Rick Dinon, Vice Chair Steve Garcia, Kyle Schulty, Connie Bracher and Gil Flores. The members of the Lake Arrowhead MAC are Chair Scott L. Rindenow, Vice Chair Michelle Ambrozic, Ken Stowe, Jim Grant and Duane Banner.

Daniel Munoz of the county’s Office of Emergency Services explained how declaring a local emergency works and the steps they use to evaluate whether an event is an emergency or not. The recent storms did create emergency situations that were declared, due to the extreme wind, snow, temperatures, electrical outages, damage from fallen trees. Munoz outlined the efforts the county undertook to respond. The area received between $2 and 6 million dollars in damage to its infrastructure. The local emergency was declared on Dec. 6. OES is currently evaluating how to respond better and more swiftly in the future.

Why weren’t resources pre-staged prior to the storm, since it was well predicted, audience members asked. The community suffered with four or more days of power outages during freezing cold snowy weather, while the roads were not cleared, impeding residents’ ability to leave the area. Homes were damaged by broken trees and the redirection of snow-clearing equipment to off-the-mountain locations left many residents stranded.
Munoz said the magnitude of the storm was greater than expected, and new plans are in place for future storms.

Twin Peaks Sheriff’s Station’s Lt. Don Lupear announced the department has written over 250 snow play illegal parking tickets and thanked the county supervisors for raising the snow play tickets to $150, which has discouraged drivers from stopping and blocking the roadways.

More Neighborhood Watch groups creating safer neighborhoods is the goal of Deputy Shawn Goings, who is coordinating with the Ring doorbell systems to create technical webs for swifter sheriff response and crime-stopping from the sheriff’s department. They hope more crimes can be solved by establishing 30 watch groups, mountainwide, using the Ring network. They want to include weekenders to protect their homes, too.

A CHP spokesman said extreme weather over the holidays seemed to decrease DUIs during the agency’s Maximum Enforcement Period. The R-3 road conditions the CHP declared got a lot of comments and suggestions.

Several residents suggested the need for allowing only locals or those with the needed equipment and chains on mountain roads so roads would not be clogged with skiers and snow players. However, Caltrans PIO Terri Kasinga explained that legally they could not allow local residents only on the roadways under non-emergency situations.

Keeping the Cajon Pass open because it is an interstate commerce transportation route was important, so they did pull some plows from the mountain highways to try and keep it open, Kasinga said. “We had to make decisions and we want to keep all the roads open. Unfortunately, some roads were closed during the heavy snowfall and then some were closed due to unprepared drivers without chains.” Kasinga noted that chains are required to be carried by drivers on mountain roads at all times during the winter, and some who didn’t were stranded and caused problems for other motorists.

“Certain acts of personal responsibilities must be accepted,” said County Fire Division Chief Ron Walls. “This was not a typical storm; this was an extreme storm and most did well and were resilient. Next concerns will be flood season and fires. Residents need to evaluate, do the preparations and be ready.”

Prescribed pile burning will be taking place in the next two months while the weather is damp, weather permitting, to remove fuels from the forest to prevent future forest fire, said U. S. Forest Service District Ranger Marc Stamer.

Caltrans introduced their new team and talked about the changeable message signs recently installed on Highways 18 and 138 and a future sign planned for the bottom of Highway 18, facing uphill traffic. Highway 18 south of Waterman Canyon Road has a failed chip seal project and it has been ground down so it is less rough, but it will be put on the repair list.

Jennifer Cusack of Edison said Edison replaced over 110 poles with 40 crews following the Thanksgiving storm. “Repairs suffered from poor visibility of damage due to fog, plus damage was often covered by snow and broken trees and the reality is that the trees kept falling, knocking out additional wires. The Christmas storm knocked out the main line up the mountain and poor communication between customers and Edison phone reps created many misunderstandings.”

Edison is planning a community meeting for Feb. 11 at the San Moritz Lodge to discuss mitigation of problems during future public safety power shutoffs. So far, Edison has replaced 1,700 poles and removed 3,500 trees, in addition to cutting many branches to keep them more than 12 feet from the poles.

The San Bernardino County Public Works Department will be resurfacing 8½ miles of roads in the Lake Arrowhead area and 18½ miles in the Crestline areas this summer, costing a total of $4.2 million dollars coming from gas tax money.

Audience member Roberta Rindenow said the mountain needs to be prepared for emergency situations. “The government can’t help with everything immediately, and we are on our own, initially. We need micro solutions to these macro problems, such as phone trees and neighborhood watches for those who are medically fragile or without warmth and food. Also, we need to establish both warming and cooling centers for the future planned power shutoffs, which Edison has said will be occurring all year long.”

Supervisor Rutherford thanked all who attended since it shows the residents are concerned about their community.

The next meeting of the Crest Forest MAC is scheduled for Tuesday, Feb. 4 at 6:30 p.m. at the Crestline Sanitation District Office. The next meeting of the Lake Arrowhead MAC is scheduled for 6 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 6 at Fire Station 91 in Lake Arrowhead.



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