ST. GEORGE – Washington County Search and Rescue crews have been busy this last week, pulling two vehicles from snowy roads in the Kolob Terrace area and rescuing a hiker who became stranded while hiking in the Red Cliffs Recreation Area.
The man, who was hiking alone, slipped and fell Saturday night and became stuck in the Red Cliffs Recreation Area, Washington County Search and Rescue Commander Mike Thomas said. The man was off the trail on a mountain north of the campground loop in the recreation area, he said. The man had fallen and had cuts, but no major injuries.
“But (he) was having trouble getting back down and kind of got ledged up,” Thomas said.
Search and rescue crews were dispatched to the scene at 10 p.m. along with a Bureau of Land Management ranger and medical personnel from Leeds.
Six volunteers responded, and were able to find and hike to the man using GPS coordinates. The man did not have food, water or a flashlight with him.
“He was up there for four-and-a-half hours in the dark,” Thomas said. “It’s not a good place to be after dark.”
The team had to set up a rappel to get the man down to safety. The rescue concluded by 1:30 a.m.
Three tourists in a black Mustang became stuck in the snow Wednesday near Lava Point by Kolob Reservoir, Thomas said. Two of the three people had left the vehicle and were walking downhill to get cellphone service.
Search and Rescue was dispatched at about 7:20 p.m. Crews responded, found the two people walking and took them back to the stranded vehicle. The vehicle was pulled out and the group was helped down the mountain.
Five Search and Rescue volunteers responded to the call, which was concluded by about 11 p.m.
Three days later, two adults and two children in a Subaru Outback were rescued from the same area after their vehicle became stuck in snow Saturday afternoon, Thomas said.
Search and Rescue crews were called out at around 1:25 p.m. Four volunteers responded to the scene and the rescue was wrapped up by 4 p.m.
The Kolob Terrace Road is not maintained in the winter, Thomas said, and is frequently snow-packed at higher elevations.
To the rescue
Thomas said there is some confusion about when a tow truck or Search and Rescue should be called to help a stranded motorist. Each call that comes into the dispatch center is evaluated independently, he said, and if someone is simply stuck, a tow company is called. However, if there is a threat involved, Search and Rescue responds.
In his book, Thomas said, having people stuck in the snow on Kolob is a life-threatening situation.
” … Because we’ve had a couple, in years past, where they didn’t call for help and we had to go get bodies,” Thomas said. “It’s better to send people up than it is to second-guess it and have a problem. If nobody goes, and they start walking in a snowstorm in the middle of the night off of Kolob, they’re going to die.”
Living in sunny St. George, Thomas said it’s easy to forget that it is winter and the days are short.
“Even if you have a nice sunny day, always be aware of the time,” he said, “because when it gets dark, it gets cold.”
Outdoor enthusiasts can also get into trouble by forgetting that increased elevation brings lower temperatures, he said, and more snow or mud on back roads.
Resources and winter safety tips
- Winter Storm Warning; what to do if you’re stuck in snow, safety kit list
- Road weather alert cautions drivers of threatening conditions; check before traveling
- Police Department offers winter weather driving tips
- Stocking your vehicle for winter; what to do in case of emergency, checklist
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