Thursday, May 24 , 2018, 2:03 am | Overcast 59º


Local News

Dramatic Rescue in Snow Caps Day of Wild Weather

Emergency crews from 6 agencies respond to La Cumbre Peak to rescue 4 stranded hikers

While Saturday’s winter storm was a curiosity for many in Santa Barbara, an afternoon outing turned perilous for four hikers caught in blizzard conditions below La Cumbre Peak.

The hikers, some suffering from hypothermia, were rescued in a dramatic multiagency effort in a near whiteout near 3,333-foot Cathedral Peak, Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department spokesman Drew Sugars said Sunday. He did not identify the two men and two women, who are in their 40s and 50s and all from the Santa Barbara area.

Sugars said the four were hiking near Cathedral Peak below 3,995-foot La Cumbre Peak when Saturday’s snowstorm blew in and they were overwhelmed by the frigid weather. According to the National Weather Service, temperatures in the area were in the 30s on Saturday afternoon and snow levels had dropped to about 2,500 feet at the time. Nearly 3 inches of snow had accumulated.

The four were wearing light hiking clothes, which quickly became wet and caused at least two of the group to develop hypothermia. One of the hikers, who has diabetes, also was concerned after an automatic insulin reader became too cold to work properly, Sugars said.

Unable to find the trail in the whiteout conditions, the hikers used a cell phone to call a friend for help just before 2 p.m. According to Sugars, the friend happened to be driving past Santa Barbara City Fire Station 7, 2411 Stanwood Drive, and stopped to report the incident.

Emergency personnel from the Santa Barbara Fire Department, the county Fire Department, Painted Cave volunteer firefighters, the Sheriff’s Search and Rescue Team, Los Padres National Forest rangers and AMR responded in a mutual-aid operation to locate the hikers and provide medical care.

The Search and Rescue team used four-wheel-drive vehicles to reach the area, navigating over snow-covered Gibraltar Road and East Camino Cielo. Just as the rescue team was about to deploy, U.S. Forest Service rangers heard the hikers, who had managed to climb to within about 100 feet of the road. They were then helped the rest of the way and placed inside the trucks to warm up and be treated for hypothermia.

Before the hikers could be transported to safety, Sugars said county firefighters and Search and Rescue teams had to clear away numerous vehicles that were trying to drive up snow-covered East Camino Cielo. Once the road was cleared, the four were taken to Flores Flats at around 3:10 p.m. and turned over to an AMR ambulance for further evaluation and treatment.

Authorities advised hikers to be prepared for winter weather and to be mindful that conditions can change quickly during this time of year. Authorities also asked that motorists use caution when driving in snowy and icy conditions.

Noozhawk publisher Bill Macfadyen can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk. Become a fan of Noozhawk on Facebook.

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