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Utah search and rescue teams brace for a busy season as winter storms continue

Summit County Search and Rescue
Summit County SAR
The Summit County search and rescue team has successfully found a missing snowmobiler over the holiday weekend. They expect more calls to come as winter storms bring fresh snow and more people head outdoors.

This year has been another busy one for some search and rescue teams in Utah as they responded to multiple calls over the holidays.

The search and rescue team in Summit County spent most of the day and night Christmas Eve looking for a lost snowmobiler. They eventually found the person alive, though suffering from hypothermia, said Lt. Andrew Wright with the county’s sheriff’s office.

Given the conditions they’re seeing, he said it’s shaping up to be a busy season.

“These storms that we're getting day after day, it's great — we definitely need the snowpack,” Wright said, “but that does encourage more and more people to get out. They want to get that fresh powder. They want to go explore the big backcountry. We anticipate we're going to have a very busy winter, especially if these storms continue.”

Wright said if people are venturing into the backcountry, they need to be aware of avalanche conditions and have proper equipment. For everyone doing activities outdoors this winter, he recommends bringing plenty of water, snacks and an extra light source.

In southwest Utah, teams responded to three calls on Christmas morning. Two people died recreating that day and one person, who was drowning in a county reservoir, was life-flighted, according to Sgt. Darrell Cashin, the search and rescue liaison for the Washington County Sheriff’s Office.

So far they’ve responded to about 150 calls making this year one of the busiest on record, he said, just behind 2020. Cashin expects more of the same next year.

“People are going to go out and are going to recreate, and nothing's going to change that,” he said. “We're just saying, think about it, be a little smart and think about what if? What if I'm out past dark? Do I need a jacket? Do I need a way to make a little fire so I can stay warm? Do I need that extra flashlight?”

Cashin said being prepared will hopefully help people avoid having to call for help — or at least will make them more comfortable until help arrives.

Lexi is KUER's Southwest Bureau reporter
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