Searchers brace for calls from Uintas | ParkRecord.com

Searchers brace for calls from Uintas

Patrick Parkinson, Of the Record staff

Still searching this week for two people believed to have drowned in Strawberry Reservoir, searchers in Summit County are also ramping up to protect a record number of snowmobilers they expect to visit this winter east of Kamas.

"It probably means that we’re going to be deployed," said Summit County Sheriff Dave Edmunds, who supervises the county’s volunteer search-and-rescue team.

According to the U.S. Forest Service, more recreationists than ever this season could visit the Wasatch-Cache National Forest, Edmunds said.

"It’s reasonable to assume, with the number of people that we’re expecting, that we will have more searches than we have in the past," the sheriff said. "It poses a lot of problems for us. There are a lot of people up there and we’re the police force."

Searchers from Summit County mobilized Nov. 9 to assist the Wasatch County Sheriff’s Office with rescue operations at Strawberry Reservoir.

Though two people believed to have drowned last week in the lake weren’t located, a so-called remote-operated vehicle (ROV) owned by Summit County, which robotically probes the bottom of the reservoir, was used to find a man who died previously.

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"We’re getting some great practical experience and every single day that we’re on Strawberry Reservoir, we get better," said Edmunds, adding, "We do believe the ROV will be what makes the recovery."

Meanwhile, Edmunds says this year raising avalanche awareness will be a priority for searchers.

"There are more people who are being killed and more people who are being caught in avalanches because there are more people in the backcountry," Edmunds said. "Summit County is a well-known avalanche area where we have a lot of areas in the county that can quickly become deadly."

After the Uinta Mountains in Summit County were pounded Monday with up to 18 inches of snow, avalanche danger was considerable this week on slopes steeper than 35 degrees, which means human-triggered slides were probable, according to avalanche forecaster Craig Gordon.

"I know we’re all chomping at the bit to get after it, but right now the snowpack needs some time to adjust and heal," Gordon wrote on the Web site http://www.avalanche.org.

Gordon warned of several recent "close calls" that have occurred when snow slid near Salt Lake.

"We have a lot of backcountry and we have a lot of slopes, and those are your problem areas," Edmunds said.

Avalanche danger along much of the Wasatch Front this week was "scary moderate," according to slide forecaster Bruce Tremper.

"The avalanches may be stubborn to trigger but if you do trigger one, it will most likely be large and dangerous," wrote Tremper Nov. 16 on http://www.avalanche.org.

A slide triggered by a skier Tuesday in the Silver Lake area of Salt Lake County was nearly three feet deep and a quarter-mile wide, according to Tremper, who added that an avalanche a skier triggered Wednesday near Little Superior Buttress was 100 feet wide and three feet deep.

Edmunds hopes the search team’s new headquarters in Kamas will reduce response times for rescuers trying to save slide victims in the Uintas.

"We strategically located our search-and-rescue facility in Kamas because the overwhelming majority of our deployments are close to Kamas," he said.

Daily avalanche updates for the Uintas and Wasatch Range are available at http://www.avalanche.org.