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More than 180 motorists were stranded for up to six hours on snow-covered roads in California’s San Bernardino Mountains, officials said early Wednesday. Dozens of people had to be rescued from their cars by snowcats and snowplows after more than a foot of powder came down on a winding and steep stretch of Highway 138, according to the San Bernardino County Fire Department.

Holden Raulston, 21, was trying to get to a college retreat with his 22-year-old fiancée Emily Gorham. "Everyone was just bumper to bumper for hours and some people were getting very upset," the account manager from Orange County told NBC News. He said the road was clear when they got onto Highway 138 around 4 p.m. local time (7 p.m. ET), but by 6:30 p.m. conditions had become too treacherous to continue, and too risky to turn back. "Most people had just pulled over to the side of the road but we saw some cars sliding around and others which had gone into ditches, which was pretty scary," he said.

Raulston, whose car was fitted with snow chains, was able to drive down the mountain just after midnight, after rescuers cleared some of the snow. Ryan Beckers, press officer for the San Bernardino County Fire Department, said 136 motorists were stranded on that stretch of Highway 138, between Crestline and Silverwood Lake. About 50 more were stuck 30 miles away on Mt. Baldy Road. Snowcats, snowplows and other fire service vehicles were dispatched to ferry people to Crestline First Baptist Church where about 50 people took shelter for the night.


- Alexander Smith