California governor tests positive for Covid after Mexico trip as death toll from storm climbs to 12
California governor Gavin Newsom has tested positive for Covid-19 after he went on a personal vacation to Mexico – all while residents in his state struggled with unprecedented snow storms that have killed at least 12 people.
Newsom spent all of last week sunbathing on the sunny beaches of Baja California in Mexico, despite thousands of residents across several cities in southern California struggling to cope with 16ft of snow that blanketed the region.
While Newsom was getting tanned and rested, at least 12 Californians have been found dead in the aftermath of the historic blizzard, which trapped people in their homes, unable to access food, medicine and fuel.
And now, it has emerged that Newsom caught Covid just days after returning from his trip to Mexico and will have to self-isolate for five days. His office said his symptoms are mild, while his wife Jennifer Siebel Newsom has tested negative.
Californian residents were left furious that their governor was on holiday while their homes were surrounded with snow drifts as tall as 10ft – and now forecasters are warning of flooding ahead of an atmospheric river storm.
A worker clears snow off the roof of Skyforest Elks Lodge after a series of storms on Wednesday in Rimforest, California
John Bays clears snow off his driveway after a series of storms on Wednesday in Lake Arrowhead, California
Monica Tapia, a volunteer with the disaster response group Team Rubicon, digs a resident’s vehicle out of the snow on Wednesday in Lake Arrowhead
California governor Gavin Newsom (pictured in January) has tested positive for Covid-19 after he went on a personal vacation to Mexico – all while residents in his state struggled with unprecedented snow storms that have killed at least 12 people
In a once-a-generation weather event, staggering amounts of snow fell in the San Bernardino and San Gabriel mountain ranges in late February, where thousands of people live in wooded enclaves.
Roofs collapsed, cars were buried and roads were blocked. The power went out in many communities and authorities reported possible gas leaks and storm-related fires.
Newsom declared emergencies in 13 of California’s 58 counties beginning March 1, including in San Bernardino County.
Meanwhile, Elinor ‘Dolly’ Avenatti, 93, was named yesterday as one of the 12 people who have died since the storms swept through California.
Avenatti, who lived alone, was found by concerned neighbors after her Crestline neighborhood lost power and she was left without access to food for nearly two weeks.
As of Wednesday, three people were found dead during welfare checks, and at least one person died in a car crash due to the poor road conditions.
Ten others also died during the storm, officials with the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department said, but those deaths are not considered to be storm-related because the victims were already under medical care at the time.
Michelle Hake, president of the Crestline Chamber of Commerce, said her sister had been snowed in for days, alone in her Big Bear City home.
She ‘needed medical attention in the midst of the storm, and we could not get that to her,’ Hake told the Times.
She said her family called for an emergency welfare check on Monday but ‘we were too late,’ and deputies with the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Office found her sister dead just after 9am.
A cause of death has not been determined, but officials say there were no signs of trauma or suspicious circumstances.
Meanwhile, Elinor ‘Dolly’ Avenatti, 93, (pictured) was named yesterday as one of the 12 people who have died since the storms swept through California
Resident Jessica Neakarse helps re-stock Mountain High Market after a series of winter storms dropped more than 100 inches of snow in the San Bernardino Mountains in Southern California on March 6 in Twin Peaks
Rob Pagarian, at left, and fellow volunteers with the disaster response group Team Rubicon dig a resident’s vehicle out of the snow on Wednesday in Lake Arrowhead
Deanna Beaudoin leans on Don Kendrick while taking a break from shoveling out their car on March 6 in Crestline, California
SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, CALIFORNIA: Joe Roop is seen trying to shovel snow in front of his rental property in preparation for a new tenant moving in on March 1
A home is covered in snow on Ridge Road in Dutch Flats, California, on Tuesday
Residents of Bernardino County have been left distraught at how unprepared local officials were for the storms that wrought havoc on the area, and how the rescue process continues to unfold.
Rachelle Angere, of Crestline, California – which got upwards of 100 inches of snow – has been without electricity in her home for the last six days.
She and her dog have been staying with a friend, who is also snowed in. The pair have burned lots of paper and wood have been burned for warmth in order to stay warm.
‘I was on the road and it was just ridiculous.’
Though she is now able to walk around Crestline, she remains worried that if she goes down the mountain for supplies, she won’t be able to get up again.
Emergency vehicles have clogged many of the roads and have periodically stopped allowing resident vehicles back through the key passes.
‘I feel trapped here,’ she said. Some residents have been trapped for going on 14 days.
‘Imagine not having any food in your house after being trapped for 13 days,’ Michelle Calkins, a resident of the still snowed-in San Bernardino community of Crestline, told KTLA-TV on Monday of the conditions after being snowed in for 13 days nearly two weeks.
Other residents such as Don Kendrick and Deanna Beaudoin were among many still stranded in their properties, with the pair only able to shovel out their car Sunday, a full 12 days after the 9,000-strong community was first hit with the first snowfall.
In Lake Arrowhead, 79-year-old Alan Zagorsky found himself shut inside his home with snow blocking the door and stairways leading out.
He and his wife had enough food to get through the 10 days until volunteers finally arrived Wednesday to help clear roughly 10ft of snow piled up outside their house.
They had been running low on blood pressure medication, but teams had come a day earlier to resupply them in the upscale mountain community where Zagorsky has lived for more than two decades.
While Californian residents were struggling with the storms, and as the state’s emergency orders were in effect, Newsom was gallivanting along the sunny beaches of Mexico.
‘The Governor was on a personal trip in Baja California,’ Newsom’s office confirmed in a statement Tuesday night, after several cities had already seen snow for eight-straight days.
‘He returned to the state on Sunday, meeting with emergency personnel at the State Operations Center and receiving a briefing on current conditions,’ the rep added.
According to the spokesperson, the brief saw the progressive politician receive ‘an update on winter storms and the state’s work to support disaster response and relief efforts’ from staffers in his office.
Staffers would proceed to share a photograph of the late-night meeting, showing a pensive, baseball cap-clad Newsom sitting at a conference table listening to one of his staffers.
But the governor has now been diagnosed with Covid, meaning he will have to self-isolate for five days.
A freshly tanned Governor Gavin Newsom is seen being briefed by staffers in a baseball cap and jeans after cutting short a ‘personal trip’ to Mexico
Businesses in the area, including some grocery stores, remain closed, with citizens on Monday saying they are growing increasingly desperate
A vehicle’s grill sticks out of a snow mound after a series of storms on Wednesday in Lake Arrowhead
Members of a Cal Fire crew clear snow off the roof of the town’s post office after a series of storms on Wednesday in Crestline, California
Meteorological projection of weather patterns across the US for the next week and into mid-March
SAN BERNARDINO, CALIFORNIA: Crews have removed more than 7.2million cubic yards of snow from highways, which equals nearly 2,270 Olympic-sized swimming pools, according to the governor’s office
TWIN PEAKS, CALIFORNIA: Residents of San Bernardino County — just east of Los Angeles — remain trapped in their homes nearly two weeks after a devastating storm
The San Bernardino mountains coated in inches and inches of snow as rescue vehicles work to get residents back on the grid after two back-to-back snowstorms hit the area
California is due for ongoing extreme weather this week as a continued rainy cold front is expected to impact the snow in the mountains and Los Angeles dwellers.
The heavy rain will likely cause some roof collapses and landslides, in addition to shutting down some major highways in the state.
Those who live near rivers and streams to take even more precautions ahead of the storm Thursday night, with another expected to follow in its wake as the state remains in a drought.
Some 13,000 people remain without power in the wake of the snowstorms, which impacted both the southern and northern parts of the state.
The northern cities surrounding the Sierra Nevada mountains are expecting an additional five feet of snow this week after getting 16 feet in the last two weeks.
The snowfall total for the storms currently stands at 48.33 feet, rivaling only the winter of 1951-1952 for most snow.