Sheriff's deputies and forest rangers were working late Monday to rescue 10 campers stranded near Idyllwild in heavy snow that blanketed Southern California's mountains after an unexpected weekend storm.
"They're obviously in where they can't get out, with some little children who are getting cold," said Ruth Wenstrom of the U.S. Forest Service.
Crews were using bulldozers to try to clear the road leading up the Santa Rosa Peak area to the campers, said Sgt. Earl Quinata of the Riverside County Sheriff's Department.
"We've located them; we just have to get our equipment to them," he said. It was not feasible, he said, to try to rescue them by helicopter.
"It's very remote," Wenstrom said.
Rescuers expected to reach the campers, who had kept in contact by cell phone, at around midnight.
A command post was established off California 74 east of the Santa Rosa Indian Reservation. Idyllwild is in the San Jacinto Mountains west of Palm Springs.
Temperatures on the mountain were expected to drop well below freezing overnight. But Quinata said the campers apparently had proper gear for chilly temperatures, plus three vehicles. The campers weren't immediately identified.
Another hiker, whose wife had reported him missing Sunday, walked out of the San Bernardino National Forest above Forest Falls on Monday. Richard Ruzzamenti, 47, of Riverside was unharmed.
The cold, blustery storm dumped up to 3 feet of snow in the San Gabriel, San Bernardino, San Jacinto and Santa Rosa mountains between 9 p.m. Saturday and noon Monday.
The snow shut down Interstate 15 in the Cajon Pass for about five hours Sunday and blocked several roads, including California 18 near Crestline and California 330 near Running Springs, early Monday.
Officials in Running Springs, Crestline and Lake Arrowhead, where some of the heaviest snow fell, ordered schools closed for the rest of the week.
The snow didn't stop falling in the Victor Valley until noon Monday, and schools there were closed for the day.
The ground turned white in places where it doesn't usually snow: Oceanside in San Diego County, Silverado Canyon in Orange County, Temecula and Lake Elsinore in Riverside County, and Yucca Valley and Twentynine Palms in San Bernardino County. Meteorologists said it was the first substantial snow in many of those areas in almost 20 years.
"My wife did get me with a snowball," said Temecula's assistant city manager, Jim O'Grady.
He said he could have thrown one back at her, "but it wouldn't have been prudent."
The tenacious storm, which didn't leave for good until Monday afternoon, dropped more than an inch of rain on some foothill communities in the Los Angeles Basin. Lightning was reported in several areas.
Winds gusting up to 83 mph battered communities throughout the Southland, toppling a eucalyptus tree onto a house in Irvine.
The National Weather Service said the wintry weekend storm was a classic "inside slider," riding high-altitude jet stream winds southeast from coastal British Columbia to Nevada, only to suddenly veer west into Southern California.
"It was one of those events that doesn't happen a lot, but when it does, it's pretty spectacular," said Ivory Small, a science and operations officer with the weather service in San Diego.
Small said the unexpected snow is "kind of nice, because it gives Southern Californians an idea of what they're missing."
Because of the Earth's rotation, weather systems in the northern hemisphere generally flow from west to east, and the reversal of form caught forecasters off guard. As late as last Friday, most of them had predicted a dry weekend.
The weather service said there was a chance of another inside slider next weekend, but until then, skies should be mostly clear, with gradually warmer temperatures Thanksgiving and throughout the rest of the week. Valley highs should be generally in the 60s today, the mid-60s to lower 70s on Wednesday, the upper 60s and mid-70s on Thanksgiving.
Ski conditions should be near perfect throughout the week at Southern California's mountain resorts, with highs from the upper 40s to low 60s and lows near freezing.
Times staff writer David McKibben in Orange County and Associated Press contributed to this report.