March 12, 2023 - San Bernadino Snowfall


A series of storms struck California between mid-February and early March, 2023, leaving parts of the state, including the San Bernadino Mountains, buried under feet of snow. San Bernadino County issued its first-ever Blizzard Warning on February 23. By March 6, media reported 100-150 inches (8-12 feet) of fresh snow in parts of the San Bernadino Mountains, with additional snow falling since that date. Big Bear City reported a record one-week total of 80 inches (6.6 feet) of new snow.

The immense snowfall left many mountain communities stranded. County government worked to clear winding, narrow mountain roads that afford little opportunity to place snow elsewhere and local residents dug themselves and their neighbors out by hand or with private plows, as best as they could, with some still digging through record-breaking snowfall.

San Bernadino County is one of 13 in the state under declarations of emergency, which allow extra funding and permits extra assistance to try to assist the snow-bound towns. While the County is offering to provide medicines, food, firewood, and water to residents all for free, it can still be challenging to reach distribution points – or for county vehicles to reach some towns. Local resources have also been stressed by the storm. For example, the roof of the local grocery store in Crestline caved in under the weight of the snow.

On March 10, the County reported that 100 percent of county-maintained roads had been serviced and were “passable”, with the definition that “passable” means less than 8 inches of snow remaining on the roads. Many mountain roads are not maintained by the county, and residents who are unprepared for extreme snows may not be able to drive on roads with 8 inches of snow.

Storms are expected to continue to strike San Bernadino County in the next few days, but the forecast is primarily for rain. Rainfall on snow can cause rapid melting, and increases the risk of mudslides and flooding.

The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Terra satellite acquired a false-color image of snow atop Southern California’s San Bernadino Mountains on March 9. In this type of image, snow looks bright blue, vegetation appears green, open land is tan, and deep water, such as the Pacific Ocean (west) and the Salton Sea (inland in the south) looks deep inky blue. The brick red area just south of center is the burn scar left by at least one of the fires that raged over Southern California in the last several years.

Image Facts
Satellite: Terra
Date Acquired: 3/9/2023
Resolutions: 1km (252.7 KB), 500m (565.2 KB), 250m (1.2 MB)
Bands Used: 7,2,1
Image Credit: MODIS Land Rapid Response Team, NASA GSFC