Winter storm strands drivers in Southern California mountains

Mountain roads are slick as snow falls on Valley of the Falls Drive in the San Bernardino National Forest on Dec. 30.
(Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)

Up to 200 cars were towed and more than 130 people rescued after a blustery winter storm stranded motorists on Southern California’s steep, icy mountain roads, officials said Wednesday.

At one point, about 300 cars were stuck on Highways 330 and 18 in Big Bear as snow began piling up from the storm, said California Highway Patrol Officer Marcelo Llerena. Between 150 and 200 cars were towed off the road and will have be picked up later by their owners, he said.

San Bernardino County firefighters, meanwhile, were busy rescuing more than 130 people who were trapped in about a foot of snow along Highway 138, which winds through the San Bernardino Mountains between Crestline and Silverwood Lake, said county fire department spokeswoman Tracey Martinez.


Firefighters worked to free the trapped drivers and check for injuries, completing the rescue operation at about 3 a.m. Wednesday, she said. No serious crashes or medical emergencies were reported, and 50 people were transported to First Baptist Church in Crestline, where Red Cross workers providing supplies and assistance, officials said.

Nearly all of State Route 38 -- from Forest Falls Boulevard in Forest Falls to Big Bear Dam -- was closed late Tuesday as vehicles became stranded in the snow.

The cold storm from Canada has brought heavy winds and several inches of snow across Southern California.

Wind advisories were implemented across the Southland, with gusts up to 70 mph predicted in mountain passes from Ventura to Orange and Riverside counties. Fremont Canyon in Orange County saw winds up to 57 mph, while Malibu Hills saw gusts up to 70 mph.

The National Weather Service forecast snow across the region to as low as 2,000 feet above sea level. The Antelope Valley and San Gabriel Mountains were expected to see a dusting, while higher elevations in Los Angeles County were expected to see up to 5 inches.

Weather service meteorologist Greg Martin said the strong winds are expected to continue through Wednesday morning and then drop off in the late afternoon. The storm’s snow and light rain are expected to move out by late Wednesday.


“When things clear out, it should get colder,” Martin said.

The Antelope and San Luis Obispo valleys could see lows between 12 and 20 degrees Wednesday night, while the flats of Los Angeles and Ventura counties are forecast to hit lows from the 20s to the low 30s.

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