WASHINGTON COUNTY — Snow-covered roads in Southern Utah are beautiful and inviting, but they can also be deadly. Even paved roads can be dangerous with the right conditions, and back-country roads can easily become lethal.
With winter well underway and winter storms rolling through, authorities are warning residents to use caution. While Iron County experiences snow regularly, St. George and surrounding cities rarely see snow.
However, many are tempted to sight see, play or just take a shortcut in the higher elevations of Washington County where snow can often be found. Back-country roads can be slick, icy, steep and treacherous.
“It’s very important that you have the proper gear, that you have the proper vehicle for going (into the back country),” Washington County Sheriff Cory Pulsipher said.
“And No. 1, let people know where you’re going and what time you expect to be back. And if at all possible, don’t go alone,” Pulsipher said.
“When I send my search and rescue guys out, nobody goes solo.”
An incident in December 2012 resulted in death, after a man and a woman became stranded on Shoal Creek Road south of the Enterprise Reservoir. The two attempted to hike out in snowy and extremely cold conditions and the woman died.
Many motorists have been rescued near Kolob Reservoir. The Kolob Terrace Road is snow packed and not maintained in the winter; however law enforcement officials say GPS devices and apps show the route as a shortcut to Cedar City.
“We’ve never been able to figure out why those Google Maps and different things actually show if you’re up in Springdale, to get to Cedar City, you go across the top of that mountain, but it does, it directs them that way,” Pulsipher said.
In February, search and rescue team members were in the Kolob area of Zion National Park when they came across a woman stranded alone in a Chevy Suburban.
The woman had been stuck about 5 miles north of Kolob Reservoir for a day and a half, with no cell phone reception, and the rescuers came across her by chance.
The woman was from out of the area and was following her GPS, Commissioner Alan Gardner said.
Washington County Search and Rescue was dispatched to the Kolob area four times in the past month, Pulsipher said.
Washington County Emergency Services offers these tips for traveling:
- Let someone know where you are going, how you will get there, and when you expect to return. This applies to all trips, not just those in challenging areas; people have gotten stuck or lost in relatively easy terrain. If you don’t return and can’t call for help, your friends or family will know to contact authorities and where to send rescuers. If you change your plans, let someone know.
- Use the buddy system. Have at least one other vehicle along. This gives you extra manpower and a way to get out if your vehicle gets stuck or breaks down.
- Carry survival gear. Even a short Sunday drive to the mountains can turn bad. Carry enough emergency food, water and other supplies to get you through a cold night or two. Carry first aid supplies to handle medical emergencies. Cell phones are good to have, but often don’t work in remote areas.
If you get stuck
If you do get stuck in snow or mud, Washington County Emergency Services offers the following tips:
- Stay with your vehicle, unless you are sure you can easily walk to safety.
- Make your vehicle visible. Keep your headlights and taillights clear and use them when you run your vehicle. Be careful not to use them too much when your vehicle is not running; a dead battery won’t allow you to start your vehicle.
- Keep your exhaust pipe clear — carbon monoxide entering your vehicle can kill you. Crack a window while the vehicle is running.
- Run your vehicle intermittently and conserve fuel — about 15 minutes every hour.
- Bundle up with all your available clothing and blankets.
- Keep hydrated and use your emergency food supplies.
- Remain calm. Someone one will be there … because you let someone know where you were going.
Additional safety tips from Washington County Search and Rescue can be found here.
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