Mono City residents come together as winter storms hit the area

Mono City residents come together as winter storms hit the area
Published: Mar. 21, 2023 at 11:10 PM PDT
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RENO, Nev. (KOLO) - The record-breaking winter storms that continue to impact our region are bringing communities together.

Susan Desbaillets has lived in Mono City, CA for more than a decade and says this round of storms has been unusual.

“It just… kept snowing and we didn’t have, for a long time, breaks in between,” she said while shoveling snow from her entrance.

Fortunately for Desabillets, she was prepared for winter.

“I had, you know, propane, food, wood. I worried more about other people.”

That concern for the well-being of others is what kept her community strong. Before the Mono County Sheriff’s Office escorted stranded residents, and the National Guard dropped supplies, Mono City residents were reliant on each other.

“There were just drifts that were nine feet tall,” said Cory Duro, Chief of the Mono City Fire Dept. Protection District. “We couldn’t drive in our communities, we had to go door to door and check on the community on foot.”

“My neighbor, Cory, helped us out a lot,” said resident Francis Velez. “He had a generator and helped us get power to heat our home.”

During the almost two weeks of isolation (due to closures on 395) and several days without power, neighbors would meet every morning at the fire department.

“The fire hall was open for people if they needed to charge while the electricity was out and you know a warm place to go,” said Desabillets.

While North of 395 is open, the closure of the South side makes it difficult for some students to get to school and some parents to work.

“My husband has to drive four hours to get to work when is usually 45 minutes,” said Velez.

“(The kids) they went through COVID and now they’re going through this,” said Duro. “Like my two boys are 15 and almost 17, and they had to take the trip, almost five hours to go seven miles, to be in class today.”

Despite the road closures, mountains of snow, and disrupted routines, residents say they feel happy knowing that in difficult times they can count on those around them.

“Those folks who just walked by live up at the tip-top, the two houses over there,” said Duro. “I have never really met them up until this crisis and they’ve been here four years so it has actually really brought us together, in a positive manner. We’re planning a big barbecue once all this white stuff is gone.”

The Mono County Sheriff’s Office says there are groups helping assess structures and assisting with snow removal. Those needing help should call (760) 932-7549.

“We have department members that have collaborated with Cal OES,” said Sgt. Magdaleno Hernandez, Mono City Sheriff’s Office. “We have an incident command situated in Bishop, California and there is a group, a team of different agencies that got together and they collaborate, they meet every day and spread resources where they’re needed.”

With more winter weather advisories this week, drivers are encouraged to check road conditions and not try to get around a road closure.

“We currently have several road closures in the county like Highway 338, on the Nevada side. So if there is a “closed road” sign please don’t try to detour around them, don’t try to follow your google maps to another road closure, it just makes the problem greater than it is,” said Hernandez.

Caltrans has been able to make a lot of progress cleaning up the avalanches along 395 South between Lee Vining and Mono City. The public information officer told KOLO8 News Now that they’re looking at a potential partial reopening two weeks from when crews first responded, which was March 18. However, the response that day wasn’t continuous. Another storm is on the way to the region this week. Caltrans will post updates on its social media pages--Facebook (Caltrans9) and Twitter (Caltrans9).

For vehicles traveling between the Reno/Carson City/Minden area of Nevada to Mammoth Lakes/Bishop/Inyo County and beyond, the main detour at this time remains Highway 95 in Nevada. Southbound traffic from Nevada can connect using NV 208 or Highway 50, depending on where they’re traveling from, down through Hawthorne to U.S. 6, which connects with U.S. 395 in Bishop. For southbound drivers that want to use U.S. 395, State Route 167 remains open as a detour around the closure. That highway will connect to Highway 95 in Hawthorne from NV 359.

Northbound traffic heading from Southern California/Inyo County will travel in the opposite direction, using U.S. 6 in Bishop to connect to Highway 95 in Nevada.