After the sun went down Sunday, the narrow, winding road up to Mt. Baldy froze, causing an hours-long backup that left dozens of people stranded overnight.
People without chains or snow tires abandoned their vehicles on the snowy Mt. Baldy Road. Some presumably caught rides with others who could get down the mountain. But about 60 stayed at the nearby Snow Crest Lodge Resort, said general contractor Joe Cojean, 61.
“People just locked up their cars and walked down the hill,” he said.
Cojean, who has spent the past three years renovating the lodge, said six of its 16 cabins are in livable condition. Families with kids packed in, including eight people who stayed in the cabin he was sharing with his daughter. The pipes were frozen so there was no water, he said — but at least they had heat.
California Highway Patrol Officer Jesus Garcia in Rancho Cucamonga said the same thing happens every year during heavy snow days. People often park illegally along the narrow road, making it difficult for emergency personnel to reach them.
“It’s one way in, one way out — no services, no gas stations,” he said. “People go up there, play in the snow, and snow and ice build up. By the time they want to get out of there, they can’t.”
The issue started during the rain Saturday, Garcia said, with the CHP receiving calls about the backed-up road. By Sunday, Garcia said, there were no crashes reported “but a lot of cars stuck and people freaking out toward the end of the night.”
Around 4 p.m., CHP shut down the road to try to get people out safely.
People continued knocking on Cojean’s cabin door until around 1 a.m. to use the phone because of poor cellphone reception in the area.
“It was a little wild,” he said.
On Monday morning, Cojean helped the families who had stayed dig out their cars and make their way back down the hill. A couple of people left cash.
He said he hopes to have the lodge open by year’s end.