EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: How Government Incompetence Continues to Make the San Bernardino Mountains Blizzard Worse

EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: How Government Incompetence Continues to Make the San Bernardino Mountains Blizzard Worse
Charlie Neibergall

The March 2023 San Bernardino Mountains blizzard story has been covered extensively here at RedState on different levels. In the past few days, we have been running excerpts (here, here, and here) from an interview with San Bernardino Mountains resident Beth Jahnsen, talking about both local and state government’s botched response and how local residents through organizations such as Operation Mountain Strong have been voluntarily doing the work those who collect taxes have utterly failed to carry out. In this fourth and final part of the interview, Jahnsen further details how indifferent performance of what little work has happened continues to affect mountain residents.

Let me frame a bit of backstory. Not just during this storm but all along, it sounds like whenever whichever agency is doing road plowing when there’s any snow, they’ve been piling the snow along the roadside, and they don’t care if they block somebody’s driveway. Is that an accurate assessment?

Very accurate. I used to have a house in Crestline. I had next-door neighbors. We were on a big curve that was 20 feet across. There was no house on the other side. It was an empty lot. Whenever they plowed the road, they’d dump all the snow between our homes and onto our driveway. I often had a nice berm on my van. Plus, the snow would clog the drainage ditch and cause a flood time and again. So no, that’s not abnormal. They don’t care.

I have pictures of roads with 10 to 12-foot berms along the side — no effort to dump the snow where it won’t be in people’s way. There are houses behind that berm. Many places up here are empty or have only a few trees. Here come special districts to plow, and they’re making excuses. “We didn’t have anywhere to put it.” You don’t have to put it on top of somebody’s car and destroy it. Yes, in this storm, there was so much snow you couldn’t quickly tell if that was a car, a pile of snow, or a pile of wood. But, many people attached flags on tall poles to their cars so it’d be obvious what was under the snow. We’d spend hours and hours trying to keep our driveways clear just to watch someone come along and plow in people.

In an earlier story, I discussed how your parents and your sons made it through the storm with great difficulty. There are doubtless a multitude of similar ones.

Oh yes. One involves my mom’s friend. She called my mom because she had heard about Operation Mountain Strong and needed help right away. I got in touch with her. She started crying. She had heat, food, and power but wasn’t sure her house or car was okay. She lives on a cul-de-sac. They had plowed the entire thing in. Her neighbors are all retired. One’s had a hip replacement. Another has a heart condition. They physically could not clear the snow. She’d called the county. She’d called the sheriff. She’d called 911. They sent her around in a circle. One person told her to call the Red Cross! No one ever got back to her. I’m going, “If you need us to come, we will.” She replied that she would call the neighbors now that she knew somebody knew they were there. That kind of story is all over the place. There are still people who live on private roads stuck in their homes because no one has come to plow the road or their driveway. You’d think in this situation, the government would make an exception.

It’s hard not to notice that aside from making an emergency declaration well after it should have been, Gavin Newsom has been MIA throughout this disaster.

I know. This was a once in a lifetime storm … maybe. Who knows. What I do know is Newsom cannot stop not being in front of a camera. You’d think he would’ve been right there.

Now, I get that he has aspirations. But let’s compare. Where the last hurricane hit Florida, Ron DeSantis was right there the entire time. We get hit by a deadly storm. Where’s our Governor?

Maybe he didn’t want to embarrass the county government or be associated with them and how bad of a job they did.

Maybe. It’s all about their politics and our money. Now, our local government is going, “Ignore those mountain people. We told them repeatedly to leave.” Which they didn’t. They’re also saying, “They’re giving you misinformation; they’re giving you rumors. All these community people need to work with the sheriffs department.” Really?

They talk about the National Guard coming to help. There was a Thursday when we saw a helicopter flying overhead that delivered food to a school. You know, the school we can’t get to because we can’t get out of our houses?

So yeah, here comes the national guard from Fresno. One picture left us wondering, “Why are you showing us a picture of the National Guard in CAL FIRE gear?” The reason was they didn’t have jackets of their own. There were eight national guardsmen here to help clear snow off of people’s roofs, and then they were gone, gone, gone.

CAL FIRE finally got up here, bringing a lot of local fire departments to help. But they had no snow shoes to go and do search and rescue. They couldn’t get to people. They were asking us to help get them snowshoes!

If the county had done what the county was supposed to do, in two weeks we would’ve been out of this. I am convinced of it. There were eight days with snow, with a one or two-day break. There was a whole week where they did nothing. If they had already been plowing, it still would have taken some time to recover, but nothing like this. Nothing this bad.

(NOTE: This interview took place on March 22. On March 28, Jahnsen passed along this text message she received that day.)

I’m at the tire shop in Running Springs. The owner said he just got out of his house yesterday. There are still people trapped in Arrowbear.

He said going up Arrowbear Road is bad.

He didn’t say his street name but said the lady behind him is still snowed in. He’s 70 and dug himself out. He’s here with a cold now from it and in pain.

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