Rescuers brace for more snowy weather after dozens of hoists in early 2023

Mar 31, 2023, 12:27 PM | Updated: 12:29 pm

SALT LAKE CITY — Newly released video documented a hoist rescue in Morgan County earlier in the week as rescuers on Thursday noted an extremely busy winter and expressed concerns about what spring might hold with more snow and wet conditions in the forecast.

“We’ve had a lot of snowmobile rescues, avalanches and then down in southern Utah slot canyons flash floods,” said Luke Bowman, chief pilot with Utah Highway Patrol and the Utah Department of Public Safety.

Bowman said there had been at least 37 hoists in the first three months of 2023, compared to just three in the first three months of 2022 — and 2022 ended up being a banner year for hoists for the DPS helicopter rescue crews.

On Friday, the Utah Avalanche Center rated the avalanche danger as “high” across northern Utah following the latest round of snow.

“There’s the potential to be very busy and for a lot more to come,” Bowman said.

On Monday, a man died after he was buried in a massive avalanche in Pole Canyon, northwest of Cedar Fort in Utah County.

On Tuesday, two people in a snowcat were buried by an avalanche in Morgan County.

On Thursday, Utah Highway Patrol released video from the helicopter used in Wednesday’s hoist rescue which successfully transported an injured man.

“Avalanches in and of themselves are always more intense,” said tactical flight officer Landon Middaugh, who was operating the hoist that day. “To have one in your backyard, though, it hit a little bit closer to home.”

When the helicopter arrived, Middaugh said crews were working to free an injured man.

“The victim was still trapped,” Middaugh said. “They were using all kinds of equipment to try to free him.”

Point-of-view video showed Sgt. Nick Napierski on the hook, securing the man and helping him as the crew lifted the two to safety and the man to waiting, urgent medical care.

Middaugh and Bowman, having witnessed numerous adverse circumstances related to weather, cautioned people to head to the backcountry prepared and urged them not to risk it in potentially hazardous conditions.

“You don’t always think that something can go wrong,” Middaugh said. “When it does, it goes really wrong.”

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Rescuers brace for more snowy weather after dozens of hoists in early 2023