Shaina Gordon, daughter of Yisroel and Mushky Gordon, out to play after a week of snow. (Photo/Courtesy Chabad Mammoth)
Shaina Gordon, daughter of Yisroel and Mushky Gordon, out to play after a week of snow. (Photo/Courtesy Chabad Mammoth)

Shabbat services on ice after record snow in Eastern Sierra

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As California continues to be battered by winter storms and record levels of snowfall, some Jewish communities are stuck digging themselves out.

Mammoth Lakes, a ski town in the Sierra Nevada mountains, near the state’s eastern border, has received more than 5 feet of snow since Monday. More is expected this weekend. The town’s Chabad, which opened in March 2020, has been snowed in for days, said Rabbi Yisroel Gordon. Just last month, 17 feet of snow buried the town for more than two weeks.

“Last Shabbos, no one was able to get here,” Gordon said. “This Shabbos might also not be possible.”

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Snow in the Mammoth area (Photo/Yisroel Gordon)

Mammoth Lakes is no stranger to a snowy season. It’s usually one of the snowiest places in California. Upcoming storms put the town well on its way to beating its own record for snowiest winter, when 55.7 feet fell in the 2010-2011 season.

Most people in Mammoth Lakes are spending the days digging themselves out, Gordon said. The Chabad’s weekly classes are on hold, and those that have gone online have low attendance.

“People have been so busy just shoveling,” Gordon said.

Jewish family in front of mountains.
Rabbi Yisroel, Mushky and Shaina Gordon. (Photo/Chabad Mammoth)

He said he is most concerned about communities farther north, in Bridgeport and Mono City, where an avalanche damaged electrical lines and knocked out power. The county has not been able to estimate a repair time. 

On Thursday, Gov. Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency in 13 counties, including Mono County. In San Bernardino County, residents have been snowed in for as long as a week.

The UC Berkeley Central Sierra Snow Laboratory near the Donner Pass reported that more snow has fallen this season than any other since 1970 — almost 41.7 feet.

“We usually get a lot of snow,” Gordon said. “But this is excessive.”

Lillian Ilsley-Greene
Lillian Ilsley-Greene

Lillian Ilsley-Greene was a staff writer at J. from 2022-2023.