'Operation Snow Angel' helps those needing supplies in San Bernardino mountains

Many people in San Bernardino County are still trapped in the mountains, more than a week after powerful storms buried neighborhoods in feet of snow. Some of those trapped need life-saving medication to survive, among other things, and have gotten help not from officials, but from organizations that have stepped up to bring necessities up the mountain.

Heather Sloan has superior mesenteric artery syndrome, meaning she can't digest food. She was sent to the hospital over the weekend because her family didn't have her life-saving medication. Firefighters had to hike through the snow into their home and snowcat her to an ambulance down the road.

In stepped Veteran Air, an Anaheim-based heating and air company, which has a location in Texas. The group was able to bring a week's supply of Sloan's medication up the mountain, after two of their crew drove from San Antonio, Texas, the day before. It's an effort they call "Operation Snow Angel." The group brought supplies they either purchased or gotten from donations, including shovels, dog food and life-saving medicine.

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Heather Sloan's mother, Susan Schafer and her daughter Lily Sloan, called her in the hospital to tell her the good news.

"This means the absolute world to me because you have no idea how much stress it was not knowing how I was going to get my medication and my tube feeding because that is my lifeline," Heather Sloan said on the phone. "So this means the absolute world to me because it means that when I get out of the hospital I can come home."

Schafer was in tears when the Veteran Air crew delivered the medication. Mike Andersen, the owner of Veteran Air, said it was tough for him not to cry, saying that the situation "touches the soul."

"It means being able to continue what we were trained in the military [to do]," Andersen said. "Help others, and a sense of community, even though we're an hour away. This is big for us. It shows our children there's more than what we do in the world, instead of just taking we can give back."

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Many families in the mountains are still in desperate need of supplies, and the county and other organizations have organized ways for people to donate and help. For those trapped, San Bernardino County has set up a hotline at 909-387-3911 for residents to arrange food or supply dropoffs. 

CalTrans also announced Monday night that the main arteries down from the mountain — highways 18, 330 and 38 — have been reopened to residents. Those wishing to head up the mountain need either proof of residence or a utility bill from the area, as well as tire chains.