Blizzard Traps Hunters in Northern Arizona

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz., Dec. 11 (UPI) — Rescuers said they likely would resume searches in Conconio County, Ariz., Friday, to find any remaining hunters who hadn’t been contacted after a blizzard.

By Thursday, the sheriff’s office had located nearly 50 elk hunters across the county’s 18,000-plus square miles of rugged terrain, The Arizona Republic reported. The rescue effort included several agencies that mobilized 40 rescuers, helicopters, fixed-wing airplanes and a fleet of snowmobiles.

Officials said they had two open rescue missions Thursday night. They had contacted both hunting parties, and were told they could wait until morning to be rescued.

One firefighter died when a tree snapped in the storm, the newspaper said.

The hunters were socked in by a blizzard that dumped nearly 3 feet of snow in and around Flagstaff, Ariz., Conconio County’s county seat.

“It came in pretty quick. We thought we would be able to get out,” said Colin Piburn, 59, one of the rescued hunters.

Weather forecasters indicated a second storm would move into the area, possibly by early Friday afternoon, making more urgent the need to ensure people are accounted for, officials said.

The areas saw an uptick of hunters because of a week-long elk hunt that ended Thursday, the Republic said. The state Game and Fish Department said elk hunting licenses are issued once a decade.

Copyright 2009 by United Press International

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