Crestline couple hiked 3 miles through unplowed roads to safety

Written by Danielle Chiriguayo, produced by Bennett Purser

Ice covers communication towers as massive amounts of snow trap residents of mountain towns in San Bernardino County, Crestline, California, U.S. March 2, 2023. Photo by REUTERS/David Swanson TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY.

Emergency crews are still trying to free Californians who have been trapped by record snowfall. The San Bernardino Mountains have been inundated with as much as 10 feet of snow in some areas. The snow is piling up on rooftops, and some people can’t get out their front doors and have lost electricity.

Jamal Jivanjee lives in Crestline, a mountain community about a 15-minute drive west of Lake Arrowhead. He and his wife had to flee their home on foot after days without power. They made the decision after back-to-back storms destroyed their local grocery store and a tree fell on their car, blocking their driveway.

“I knew we were going to have to get out of there. We weren't really sure how we could communicate with anybody because there was no cell service, no power,” Jivanjee explains. “We just grabbed a couple of carry-on suitcases that we have for traveling and just filled everything we could in the suitcases and then a couple of backpacks. And then we made our way out.”

They hiked about three miles to a friend who had power and internet. 

“There's a stop sign at the end of a road and the snow was literally up to the actual stop sign. …  We had just regular hiking boots and coats on. But it was not easy. And because the roads hadn't been plowed, people were walking, or were trying to walk, in tracks that cars have driven in. If you stepped off those tracks, you could literally be chest-high in snow.”

While he’s heard that the National Guard is getting set up to help Cresline residents, he foresees the process taking time.

“There's 91 inches of snow that fell in the Crestline area. Driving is out of the question, so people are reduced to being on foot. When you're trying to walk in 91 inches of snow, it's really difficult. So I'm not sure where the plows are, but there's a huge need for them and there's just a lot of side streets. There's a lot of elderly folks. A lot of people who just can't get out of their house that need to get rescued.”

Jivanjee says he’s been talking to his community over a local Facebook group. Some residents are asking for rides, assistance out of their homes, and even medication.

“One of the main problems is once they plow the road, you have a berm of snow, probably eight to 10 feet tall. That's just simply not manageable for someone to dig out of that. So people are literally trapped in their homes with no ability to get food or medicine, and that's a challenge.”