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Public access to Big Bear Valley closed amid concerns about weather, supplies

January 24, 2010 |  7:39 pm

San Bernardino County officials Sunday evening closed access to the entire Big Bear Valley to everyone except residents and those providing emergency services and supplies.

The move comes at the peak of ski season and is a blow to the area's businesses and resorts, many of which rely on tourism.

Authorities said they closed access because of rough weather and tough road conditions. Many visitors, they said, were coming to the area and then were unable to leave because of insufficient gasoline supplies at stations there. More than 20 visitors who could not get back down from the mountain because they had run out of fuel or for other reasons were being housed at an emergency shelter, according to a news release from San Bernardino County authorities.

"The gas stations are running out of gas and the grocery stores are running out of food," said county spokesman David Wert.

Highway 38 is closed from Redlands and Yucaipa into Big Bear to all traffic except emergency vehicles and fuel and food trucks. Only residents are allowed east of Snow Valley on Highway 18, and access to Big Bear Valley on Highway 18 from Lucerne Valley is closed to all but residents, authorities said.

Wert said it was unclear how long the valley would be closed to visitors but that officials would reevaluate the situation at noon Monday.

-- Ari B. Bloomekatz