By Aaron Creighton
I am tempted to be critical of the response by various agencies of government to our current crisis, but I also want to tread carefully so as to be fair.
Of course, what is going on in our mountain communities is daunting, and certainly logistically difficult. The blizzard that hit the mountain was in no way typical, even for long-timers who have seen it all. There is nothing usual about this storm and the aftermath.
In addition to consideration of road conditions, government leadership has been thrown some wild cards where the closure of two of our main grocery distribution points are concerned. The combination of these two things has wiped out the supply chain and rendered the mountain communities vulnerable.
Many people are stuck at home, unable to get to food distribution points. As is to be expected, neighbors are stepping up all over the mountain to help each other out. People who have transportation are going out to food distribution points and picking up food for their neighbors who can’t get out. There is nothing surprising about that since this mountain has always been this way. People helping people during times of distress. It’s part of the DNA of this community.
That said, I have to wonder about the response by Caltrans and CHP regarding not allowing residents to leave the mountain and return.
With two of our main food sources out of business, we need to be able to allow residents down the mountain and back to bring supplies. I have been in contact with several locals who are well equipped to handle the conditions on Highway 18. They have gone down to Costco, Walmart and Stater Bros. in San Bernardino. They have purchased food and picked up medications for their neighbors only to be told they cannot come back up the mountain.
One couple I know has a carload of food and is currently trying to figure out how they can store the perishable items in San Bernardino since they were prevented from returning with those supplies and had to spend the night in a hotel.
While I can’t claim to know all the reasons Caltrans and CHP are taking this approach, I will say that they may be putting the mountain communities in more danger than they are mitigating. When people get hungry, they get desperate and do what they have to do to help themselves and their neighbors survive. You can’t have two of the major food distribution points close and also not allow people to find alternatives.
I want to urge Caltrans and CHP to rethink their strategy of not letting locals back up the mountain.
I also want to praise the good people of this mountain for being exactly who they always are during times of adversity. Every time we’ve seen disaster, conflagration or inundation on this mountain, the residents step up and help each other.