By Mary-Justine Lanyon
Snow. Rain. Ice.
Fallen trees. Downed power lines, Snapped power poles.
Closed roads. Cell phone service out. Internet down.
“These storms were a recipe for power outage,” said David Song, a public information officer with Southern California Edison.
After the snow on Christmas night, another series of storms passed over the mountain communities, dropping inches of snow on Wednesday, Dec. 29 and then rain on Dec. 30.
“When you have snow on the lines and add moisture, the snow becomes like a sponge,” Song said.
Those heavy sponges led to trees snapping, falling on power lines, bringing them down. Because of those live wires, roads across the mountain were closed while crews deactivated and replaced them.
Trees also fell across side roads, county roads and state highways, stranding some motorists and leaving others to find their way around the closures.
Still other trees fell on and through houses and on cars, causing considerable damage. One family was forced to move out of the house they were renting. Fortunately, neighbors took them in and the fire department came to shut off the gas and electricity.
Highway 18 was already closed to traffic coming up from the San Bernardino area due to the washout that occurred on Dec. 22 (see the update in this issue). Traffic was rerouted to Highways 330 and 138, leading to long lines of visitors coming to play in the snow and residents returning home from Christmas celebrations.
As of Jan. 2, SCE’s outage map (www.sce.com/outage) still listed 30 outages affecting 3,373 customers from Crestline to Lake Arrowhead to Running Springs.
One couple who lives in Rimforest said on Sunday that their power went out on Tuesday, Dec. 28. The latest word they had had from SCE was it might be restored by Tuesday, Jan. 4.
Electricity was not the only utility not in service. Spectrum went down, affecting thousands of customers who had no Internet and many of whom also had no landline phone service. (Editor’s note: Frontier Communications did go down briefly on the morning of Wednesday, Dec. 29 but service was quickly restored and remained up and running.)
Further complicating communications, Verizon Wireless went down on Dec. 31. While a message was received on Jan. 2 that service was restored, calls remained spotty. Some folks were able to text during the outage while others were not.
The advice from SCE’s Song is to always report your outage. “Don’t assume your neighbor has reported it. It’s good for us to get confirmation from the customer. We want to know the footprint of that outage.
“In most cases we know you’re out but it’s good to tell us. Then the crew knows where to go, what to do.”
Song added that SCE knows when storms are coming. “We make sure we have crews ready to go and situated in place. In the past, we have had challenges getting up to the mountain,” he said.
The first step in addressing an outage, Song noted, is for the troubleman to go to the scene and triage the situation. “He will assess it to see what they can do to get people back up and running. He will figure out the root of the problem, call dispatch and tell them what kind of crew and equipment are needed.”
Because every outage is different, Song said it can be difficult to set a restorative time.
“It may take some time to restore power. Mountain folks are so resilient and hardy – so awesome. Our crews appreciate it. We know it’s tough, especially in cold winter conditions.
“It’s not lost on us that you are patient, grateful and appreciative.”
The outages also affected mountain businesses, who were without power, Internet and phone service.
Restaurants like Stone Creek Bistro and The Grill at the Antlers had to close for a couple of nights as they had no power. When they reopened, it was cash-only as they could not process credit cards.
SkyPark at Santa’s Village opted to close on Wednesday and Thursday, Dec. 29 and 30, because of the forecasted inclement weather. However, the park remained closed on Friday, Saturday and Sunday as power had not been restored.
On Jan 2, SkyPark posted the following on Facebook: “We have some great news! Power in our area is now projected to be fully restored by Tuesday, Jan. 4. We join all our guests in the disappointment of this past week from having to close the park. Between two big storms and power outages, having this happen over the holidays was not anything we could anticipate. And Santa knows there were still so many new and old friends to see and visit with!
“Because of this, we have now extended the Santa’s Village Nostalgic Christmas in the Woods celebration from Thursday, Jan. 6 through Sunday, Jan. 9, from 10:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m. All guests who were unable to use their Santa’s Village day pass tickets are welcome to redeem their rainchecks for these dates.”
Also affected were several New Year’s Eve events. Canceled were events at the San Moritz Lodge and The Tudor House.
Capt. Don Lupear, commander of the Twin Peaks Sheriff’s Station, said they received a lot of calls about downed trees and people being cold because they had no power. “That’s normal during a storm,” he said. They also got calls asking for welfare checks on older relatives, who couldn’t be reached with the phones and Internet out.
Capt. Lupear noted they have three beats, one each in Crestline, Lake Arrowhead and Running Springs. Ordinarily, they cross over, helping one another. But during storms like those the mountain just experienced, each deputy stayed in his beat area with all four wheels chained up.
In addition, there were extra snow patrol personnel out, helping the CHP keep traffic flowing as best they could.
Ron Chalfant, who posts weather updates at www.lakegregoryweather.com and on Facebook at Lake Gregory Weather Group, said that Crestline received 7.73 inches of rain from Dec. 23 to Dec. 26. From Dec. 28 to Dec. 30, he recorded 4.42 inches of rain and five inches of snow.
The higher elevations on the mountain received additional snow – up to a foot.
Governor Gavin Newsom issued an emergency proclamation covering San Bernardino and 19 other counties. His proclamation will expand access to state resources for each county, allowing for greater support in response and recovery efforts.
Additionally, Caltrans was directed to request immediate federal assistance for highway repairs and reconstructions. The proclamation will also ease access to unemployment benefits for those who lost their jobs as a result of the recent winter storms.