LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — The San Bernardino Mountains are covered in unprecedented amounts of snow. As temperatures begin to rise, officials are concerned about how far it will travel if it melts too fast.

Multi-feet-high walls of snow, at one point, prevented anybody from coming in or getting out of these forest communities for days in February and early March. Fire Captain Steve Concialdi, who is working as a public information officer during this event, said some areas received over 12 feet of snow.

This trapped some residents inside their homes, along with knocking over streetlights, pinning down cars, and causing days-long power outages. 

“They haven’t seen a storm like this in over 40 years,” Concialdi said outside a Crestline grocery store whose roof collapsed from snow. “We just got to a home today where those people were dug out after 18 days.”

Concialdi joined nearly 800 firefighters, police, equipment operators, and other personnel working to save residents who remain in the mountains.

Some of these residents, like Ginger Abad and Rick Goodrich, are living in partially destroyed homes.

“It’ll be a while until we can get it fixed because even if we get it straightened out with insurance, there’s no way to get a contractor right now,” Goodrich said next to a wall of snow.

The couple watched as their patio roof collapsed days ago.

“Everybody’s just trying to get past the problems,” Abad added.

As temperatures rise, residents began to see some relief as the snow started melting. But, all that water has to go somewhere else.

Jonathan Newby, field office Chief for the United States Geological Survey (USGS) in Redlands, said “warm rain” from the weekend and more precipitation expected Tuesday can make it travel farther than typical.

“Warm weather would melt it, right? And warm rain with melt it too. Warm rain would just melt it a lot faster,” Newby said inside his Redlands office.

Without this kind of weather, he said it could take up to a month for the snow to melt through a system of natural courses above and below the ground. On the northern slopes, where a majority of the snow is collected, that drains into the Mojave river.

The Mojave River at Barstow, where officials predict water from San Bernardino Mountain snow to runoff to. (KLAS)

However, with a vast amount of snow, paired with drought-stricken land, he said the potential poses itself to reach Barstow. In the 11 years his office has operated, he said he’s only seen this twice.

If intense enough, it could go even farther to Soda Lake, a dry lakebed near Baker, where Newby said water would be fed into the groundwater table. But, when asked if he expects this, he said it depends on the rain.

“It could skim over all that dry sand. It’ll soak up in the sand. But, if it’s really that fast and that intense, yeah, it can go through Barstow, or at least at a higher level than we’ve seen in a long time,” Newby said. “I think the drought has just been so very intense, I’m not sure really what to anticipate anymore.”

Soda Lake, a dry lake bed by Baker that officials say could soon see water from San Bernardino Mountain snow if runoff is intense enough. (KLAS)

In response, San Bernardino County Public Works Director Brendon Biggs said his department is urging residents on this path to utilize sandbags provided by the county, though remains confident in the basins and infrastructure in place to safely capture the water.

“Snow absorbs the rain. It can become heavy and take the debris down with it too. So, that could involve us cleaning up rocks and debris in addition to the snow,” Biggs said outside the public works office, facing the mountains above. “Down here in the valley, we have a whole system of concrete channels and basins that are designed for that 100-year protection.”

The potential flooding could spill over roadways, like I-15 between Las Vegas and Southern California, Biggs said. He added that those roads would close until cleared if that happens.

Newby added that it is unlikely Southern Nevada will see any of this water due to its higher elevation, though predicts runoff to reach Barstow “in the next day or two.” Beyond that, he is unclear on how far snow runoff will travel.