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Local First Responders Meet the Challenge Brought by Epic Snowfall

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Fresno County SO's Eagle One helicopter delivers medicine to a man snowed in at his Huntington Lake cabin. (Facebook/Fresno County Sheriff's Office)
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While an epic Sierra snowfall is making for beautiful snapshots and replenishing reservoirs, it has left thousands of Valley residents without power and sent first responders into overdrive.

And these realities will continue as Valley residents brace for more rain and snow Saturday afternoon through Sunday night.

Just How Big Is the Snowpack?

‘Epic” isn’t an exaggeration of this winter’s snowfall.

The state Department of Water Resources said Friday that electronic readings from 130 snow sensors placed throughout California indicate the statewide snowpack’s snow water equivalent is 44.7 inches — 190% of the average for this date.

In addition, the statewide snowpack trails only the record 1982-83 snow year.

“The recent storms over the past week broke a month-long dry spell in a dramatic way,” said DWR’s Sean de Guzman. “We are hopeful that we will see more cold storms to add to our snowpack for the next month and help set up a long, slow melt period into spring.”

Thousands Without Power in Madera County

While small pockets of Fresno neighborhoods were without power on Friday afternoon, thousands of mountain residents — particularly in Madera County — continue to await the restoration their electricity.

To check on when your service might be restored, go to this PG&E link.

Helping Stranded People in the Mountains

Examples of first responders going the extra mile to help people abound.

For example, on Thursday, the crew aboard the Fresno County Sheriff’s Office helicopter Eagle One delivered medicine to a man snowed in at Huntington Lake.

The helicopter performed a low-level drop of the medicine to the man near his home.

Watch: Medicine Delivery at Huntington Lake

Madera County Rescue Includes Month-Old Baby

On Wednesday, the Madera County Sheriff’s Office said that it brought four people, including a month-old baby, out of the Calvin Crest Camp in Oakhurst. Deputies also delivered replacement parts to the camp for the repair of the camp’s snow plow.

“In the midst of this unprecedented storm, our deputies and volunteers have shown their commitment and dedication to serving our community members,” said Madera County Sheriff Tyson Pogue. “We are grateful for the positive outcome of this mission, and thank our allied partners for their efforts and collaboration.”

Madera County residents needing help, supplies, or shelter should call (559) 675-7770.

KVPR Returns to the Air

Joe Moore, president and general manager of Valley Public Radio, said that the station returned to the airwaves at 8 p.m. Wednesday via a backup transmitter.

In a Twitter post, he showed how the snow had impacted the station’s transmitter at Meadow Lakes, which has an elevation of 4,452 feet.

Weekend Forecast

Fresno could see up to a half inch of rain between Saturday afternoon and Sunday night, NWS Hanford says.

The forecast also calls for up to 3 feet of snow in the Shaver Lake area.

Patchy morning frost will appear starting Monday morning and the skies are expected to dry up at least through Thursday.

The view from below Millerton Lake on Friday, March 3, 2023. (GV Wire/Jahz Tello)

Highway 168 Closed at the Four-Lane

Caltrans said Friday morning that Highway 168 will remain closed at the start of the four-lane below Shaver Lake this weekend.

It also tweeted other road openings and closures. For the latest Caltrans road information, go to this link.

SoCal Mountain Residents Could Be Stranded Another Week

Some residents stranded in Southern California mountain communities by a huge snowfall could be stuck for another week, an official said Friday.

A late-February blast of arctic air produced a rare blizzard east of Los Angeles in the San Bernardino Mountains, where thousands of people live at high elevations in forest communities or visit for year-round recreation.

About 80,000 people live in the San Bernardino Mountains either part or full-time. The county has not estimated how many people are currently in the mountains because many residences are vacation homes or rentals.

Extraordinary snowfall buried homes and businesses, overwhelming the capability of snowplowing equipment geared toward ordinary storms.

By last weekend, all highways leading up into the mountains were closed and have opened intermittently since then to residents and convoys of trucks loaded with food or other supplies.

The estimate by San Bernardino County Sheriff Shannon Dicus was an improvement in the outlook, which previously ranged up to two weeks.

The officials in San Bernardino County said crews were dealing with such tremendous depths of snow that removal required front-end loaders and dump trucks rather than regular plows.

More snowcats were being brought in, along with a California National Guard crew that normally works with California Wildfire & Forest Resilience Task Force on wildfires. The crew will help shovel snow.

(Associated Press contributed to this story.)

 

Bill McEwen is news director and columnist for GV Wire. He joined GV Wire in August 2017 after 37 years at The Fresno Bee. With The Bee, he served as Opinion Editor, City Hall reporter, Metro columnist, sports columnist and sports editor through the years. His work has been frequently honored by the California Newspapers Publishers Association, including authoring first-place editorials in 2015 and 2016. Bill and his wife, Karen, are proud parents of two adult sons, and they have two grandsons. You can contact Bill at 559-492-4031 or at Send an Email