Thursday, December 10, 2009

Trapped Hunters

More than two dozen hunters are, right at this moment, trapped by 2 to 3 feet of freshly fallen snow in the mountains of Arizona, according to reports from the Coconino County sheriff's office. The huge storm dumped that much snow in one day, trapping 25 to 30 elk hunters in the high country near Flagstaff.

Searchers on snowmobiles, cross-country skis, and snowshoes are in the process of checking popular camps, trying to find the survivors and get them out before they run completely out of food, water and fuel for heating. With those supplies dwindling, rescuers are trying to get to those in greatest need first.

Some of the trapped hunters were able to use their cell phones to call for help, triggering the rescue attempts. Not all of the folks who are trapped are rugged hunters — some are children and elderly folks, according to reports.

How can you prevent such an event from happening to you?
  • Always at the top of the list is the process called Situational Awareness. Be aware of what the weather patterns are doing and what the near-term and long-term forecast is. Before and during the trip, check weather forecasts by radio, TV, newspaper, and the Internet. Carry a battery-powered NOAA weather radio with you, so you can keep up to date and listen for weather warnings.
  • But don't let it end there — keep your eyes on the sky, watching cloud formation and movement. Forecasters will not be aware of weather activities in your locale until someone calls them to report it. Your eyes and your understanding of how to read the weather are the most important forecasting tools right where you are. 
  • If there is a change in temperature, barometric pressure, cloud formation and direction of cloud movement, take the initiative to cancel your plans and get out of danger. Don't wait around until it's too late. 
  • Be prepared with at least twice as much supplies as you think you'll need, because you never know when something will happen that will strand you for longer than you expected to be there. 
  • Leave detailed instruction with friends and family members back home, letting them know exactly where you will be and how long you will be there. Then, do not change your plans without notifying those folks about the changes. 
  • Always have winter-grade clothing and sleeping bags in your vehicle at this time of year. 
  • Carry signaling devices — mirror, whistle, colorful fabric panels, personal locator beacon or SPOT, radio, 
  • Carry a GPS, not only to keep yourself from getting lost, but also so you can tell rescuers exactly where you are, if you are able to contact them by phone or radio.
  • And, of course, carry redundant methods of starting a fire. 

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