By Mary-Justine Lanyon
and RHEA-FRANCES TETLEY
Snow removal led the discussions at both the Crest Forest and Lake Arrowhead Municipal Advisory Council meetings last week.
Shane Massoud of Caltrans thanked the residents for their patience “as our crews worked 12-hour shifts clearing the roadways and maintaining chain control.” Since the storms ended, maintenance crews have been assessing any damage done, repairing guardrails, clearing out any plugged culverts, checking the integrity of embankments and the road bed, clearing shoulders of debris.
In talking about Caltrans’ proposed CMS (changeable message signs) project, Massoud said that, of the 20 proposed signs, they hope to expedite two to mitigate prolonged traffic issues. One would be placed northbound at the intersection of Highway 18 and 40th Street to advise motorists of snow matters. The other would be at the 210 and 330 interchange.
These signs, Massoud noted, “would give drivers the opportunity to exit if not properly equipped to handle the road conditions ahead.” He added they hope to have those signs operational by Fall 2022.
Representatives from the county’s Department of Public Works presented a comprehensive PowerPoint presentation that detailed the number of miles of road they have to clear, the equipment they have available and the guidelines they follow as they plow snow.
Of the 2,769 miles of road maintained by the department, 290 are in the 2nd Supervisorial District, which includes the mountain communities.
Angel Lemus, a supervisor with the department, told the Crest Forest MAC that they have 39 routes with between 68 and 97 pieces of equipment to remove snow. Both she and Melissa Walker, the deputy director of operations, defined the progression of opening roads:
A road is defined as “passable” when it has less than eight inches of snow on it. It is said to be open to travel with a properly equipped vehicle, one that has chains on all drive wheels. When a plow has made at least one pass on a road, it is deemed “open.” And a road is called “clear” when a plow has made at least two passes and has been plowed to a width that allows two-way traffic.
Primary roads take priority over secondary roads. “The first course of action during large events,” Walker said, “is to open primary roads with one pass, to provide access for emergency personnel. Full width and secondary roads will be completed within 48 hours.”
Both Lemus and Walker referred residents to the department’s website (sbcounty.gov/dpw), where they can view interactive maps to determine where their roads fall and get additional information on snow removal.
With storms as intense as those the mountain recently experienced, a primary road will get a dedicated plow, with work continuing on secondary roads. The equipment used includes graders, loaders, snow blowers, dump trucks and plow trucks.
A major issue for the plow operators, Lemus and Walker noted, is cars parked on the street. In addition, they said, many property owners have items such as trash cans within three feet of the roadway, making it difficult for the operators to clear the road. Walker suggested that homeowners flag their fences or plants so operators know where they are.
The Department of Public Works does cinder select roads to improve traction on icy roads; this, however, is not done until after plowing has been completed.
Two things that DPW does not do, Walker advised, is clear driveways or haul snow away. She also suggested waiting for two passes by the plow, if possible, to clear your driveway to help avoid a berm.
“If we could avoid creating a berm, we would,” she said.
Jennifer Cusack of Southern California Edison told both MACs that they are continuing their wildfire mitigation efforts. They plan to replace 125 poles this year and will be installing 125 miles of covered conductor.
Covered conductors, Cusack said, “are important to reduce wildfire risk. If a branch or Mylar balloon hits the wire, it reduces the chances of a spark.”
Lt. Michael Salinas of the CHP reported to the Crest Forest MAC that, during the storms and recent weekends, they had issued 251 snow tickets, towed 177 vehicles, arrested 61 for DUI and aided 1,100 stranded motorists. Officers came from as far away as Los Angeles and Indio to assist the mountain-area officers.
When a resident asked CHP Public Information Officer Jacob Griede at the Lake Arrowhead MAC if there was a way to cut off how many cars come up, Officer Griede said that “we cannot limit the mountain to just residents. We have to keep it open to everyone.”
CREST FOREST MAC
Brendan Biggs, deputy director of the DPW, showed a PowerPoint presentation on the proposal to turn narrow San Moritz Drive into a one-way street, as requested by some area residents. DPW had sent out a survey and is waiting for more responses before making a recommendation to the board of supervisors.
LAKE ARROWHEAD MAC
School trustee Cindy Gardner reported that the Rim school district is still in distance learning “because the county is “still in deep purple.”
As the students have been learning online longer and longer, “they like distance learning less and less as do parents and staff.” Gardner said they are hearing of increasing mental health issues on the part of the students. “They are exhibiting anxiety and depression. The students are not in a good place. I hope as we plateau and the numbers go down, we can see some kind of opening.”
Gardner added that the seniors “are devastated – they’ll have no prom, no grad night, no homecoming. All those usual memories are gone.” She noted that a subcommittee from PTSA is working with student leadership on some alternative activities.