Foul weather hampers search for missing Kotzebue snowmachiners

mtheriault@adn.comMay 19, 2013 

Fog and blowing snow continue to hamper the search for a man and woman missing in Northwest Alaska since Wednesday, a spokeswoman for the Alaska State Troopers said Sunday.

Shallain Adams, 23, of Noorvik and Clifford Greist, 32, of Selawik were last seen leaving Kotzebue at 2 a.m. on Wednesday on a black Polaris IQ snowmachine, according to AST spokeswoman Beth Ipsen.

They were thought to be heading to Selawik, though a woman who identified herself as Greist's sister, Sharon Greist, said in an email to the Daily News that the pair were on their way to Noorvik.

Roughly 70 searchers have scoured a massive 9,000-square mile block of remote tundra looking for Greist and Adams since they were reported missing Wednesday.

"This area is pretty flat and open but there are lots of rivers, creeks and a few lakes, plus a lot of willows that could hide them," Ipsen said.

The air search includes a wildlife trooper in a Piper PA-18 Super Cub and a volunteer in a Cessna 206, troopers said.

Continuing poor weather has thwarted some efforts by pilots and ground searchers, Ipsen said.

"The wildlife trooper was only able to fly for a couple of hours (Saturday) before the fog and blowing snow turned him back," wrote Ipsen in an email Sunday. "He was fueled up and ready to go Sunday but the freezing fog and blowing snow kept him on the ground."

If weather improves Sunday, the wildlife pilot will try to fly in an area east and northeast of Kotzebue, Ipsen said.

"There are a lot of shelter cabins in the area so it's possible they may seek refuge from the wind and snow," she wrote.

Greist wrote in an email that searchers had discovered a campfire and barrier 12 to 18 miles out of Noorvik. It's unclear whether it was left by the missing snowmachiners.

Reach Michelle Theriault Boots at mtheriault@adn.com or 257-4344.

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