February 26. 2024. 5:33

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Teenage hikers rescued after days stuck in California snowstorm

Search crews have rescued people stranded for days in snow after back-to-back storms hit California’s mountain communities and trapped many in their homes.

A pair of teenage hikers were rescued by helicopter from the snow-plastered San Bernardino Mountains.

Cesar Ramirez’s 17-year-old son and his friend were found after heading off for a 10-day trek in the southern California mountains.

The teenagers were avid hikers with ample foods in their backpacks, a tent and snowshoes, plus extensive training.

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But when the snow began pummelling the mountains east of Los Angeles and Mr Ramirez lost contact with them through a tracking app, he called the San Bernardino County sheriff’s department.

They dispatched a helicopter to the boys’ last known location, followed their tracks and spotted and rescued them. By then, Mr Ramirez’s son had lost his jacket to the wind, and their tent had broken, the father said.

“They’ve told us, ‘We were already convinced we were going to die’,” said Mr Ramirez, of Cypress, California.

The dramatic rescue came as California has struggled to dig out residents in mountain communities from as much as 3m of snow.

State governor Gavin Newsom has declared states of emergency in 13 counties including San Bernardino County, where the massive snowfall has closed roads, caused power outages, collapsed roofs and trapped residents in their homes for days.

San Bernardino County sheriff’s Sgt John Scalise said the boys were slightly hypothermic and lucky to be alive after huddling together for three nights to stay warm.

He said they were well-prepared for the hike but not for the massive amounts of snow.

“They knew there was weather. But I don’t think they expected the amount,” he said.

In a separate rescue operation further north in Inyo County, a man was found waving inside his partly snow-covered vehicle after the California Highway Patrol identified a mobile phone ping linked to him and sent out a helicopter crew.

He drove out from the community of Big Pine and was last heard from on February 24th, said sheriff’s authorities in the county on the eastern side of the Sierra Nevada.

Another strong storm dumped more snow Saturday on Northern California mountain communities, and a winter storm warning was in effect through to early Monday, according to the National Weather Service in Sacramento.

In southern California’s San Bernardino Mountains, authorities have been working to clear roads and distribute food, water and blankets to snow-battered residents while the Red Cross has set up a shelter at a local high school.

Authorities have said some residents could be shut in for another week because of the challenges in clearing out so much snow. – AP