Vehicles were buried, communities were left without power and roofs collapsed.
After a snowstorm hit the Southern California mountains, Alan Zagorsky, 79, was trapped in his home because a thick blanket was blocking his door and stairs to the outside.
He and his wife had enough food for 10 days until volunteers finally arrived Wednesday to remove 10 feet (3 meters) of accumulated snow outside their home in the town of Lake Arrowhead.
They were running low blood pressure medications were running low, although crews had arrived a day earlier to restock them in this elegant mountain community where Zagorsky has lived for more than two decades.
"We've experienced many snowstorms, but none that left this amount, no doubt," he said, as a crew shoveled snow off the road to his garage in the mountains east of Los Angeles. "At this very moment they're trying to find a place where they can deposit" the snow.
In a once-in-a-generation weather event, large amounts of snow fell in late February in the San Bernardino and San Gabriel mountain ranges, where thousands of people live in forested enclaves. The areas are frequent destinations for hikers and skiers who arrive via winding, steep roads that have been frequently closed due to ice.
Accumulated snow overtopped the first-level windows of many homes, and residents who were able to get out walked to buy groceries at stores with nearly empty shelves or picked up boxes of donated food at a distribution center.
Due to the snow, roofs collapsed, vehicles were buried and traffic was interrupted on roads. Many communities were without power and authorities reported possible gas leaks and fires related to the storm.
Governor Gavin Newsom declared an emergency in 13 of California's 58 counties as of March 1, including San Bernardino.
On Wednesday, dozens of volunteers from the Los Angeles-based humanitarian group Team Rubicon scattered throughout the mountain communities to remove snow accumulated on buried homes.
A team of 10 used shovels and snow blowers to clear trails and driveways for Zagorsky and his neighbors, who have been confined to their homes for more than a week.
In Lake Arrowhead, population 9,700 and located 5,175 feet (1,575 meters) above sea level, many roads were cleared Tuesday for the first time in 10 days, and some residents complained about the slow response.