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Outdoors/Adventure

Crews rescue 2 groups stranded by Tuesday’s storm in Alaska Range and Mat-Su

One group's camping gear was blown away in the wind. The other's shelter was destroyed, and they couldn't start a fire.

The two parties — hunters and climbers traveling in different areas of Alaska were rescued overnight after severe weather destroyed their camps, stranding them without needed supplies, Alaska State Troopers said Wednesday.

In both cases, search and rescue crews were delayed in reaching the groups due to a powerful windstorm that slammed some parts of the state, and they had to turn back because the weather was so bad, troopers said.

When found, both groups were hypothermic, Candis Olmstead, director of public affairs for the Alaska National Guard, said in a text message early Thursday.

The first rescue happened in the Alaska Range, southeast of the community of Nikolai. Two out-of-state hunters, led by a Talkeetna bear hunting guide, called in an SOS from a Garmin InReach device around 7:30 a.m., saying they were caught above the tree line in extreme weather, troopers said.

Winds over 70 mph had destroyed their camp and survival gear. They were stranded without shelter and unable to make a fire, troopers were told.

"Continuous communication throughout the day indicated the weather was worsening and their plight had become desperate," troopers said.

The Rescue Coordination Center coordinated a launch from Anchorage but it had to turn back due to "extreme conditions," troopers said. Later in the day, search and rescue teams left from the Interior city of Fairbanks.

Around 11 p.m., troopers got word that one of the hunters, Roxanne Cadotte-Speckman, 60, of Pleasant Hill, Oregon, was rescued by another hunting guide in a PA-18 Super Cub plane. She had been taken to a lower elevation, troopers were told.

Search and rescue teams reached the other two stranded hunters — Calvin Speckman, 71, from Pleasant Hill, Oregon, and guide Jason Vogel, 45, from Talkeetna — shortly afterward, troopers said.

All three were taken to Fairbanks in a Pave Hawk helicopter. They were dropped off "in good condition after suffering from exposure," and didn't report any major injuries, troopers said.

The second search and rescue, also hindered by bad weather, took place early Wednesday morning on Powell Glacier, north of the community of Chickaloon.

A couple from Washington state became stranded after their camping supplies were blown away in the windstorm, trooper said.

The couple was stuck on the glacier at 6,000 feet, Olmstead said.

Troopers were called around noon from a person outside Alaska, saying that climbers Katherine Wyatt, 32, and Andrew Wyatt, 33, were stuck and needed help getting off the glacier. Troopers think the couple had a satellite communication device that they used to call the person from out of state.

With bad weather, including winds clocking in over 80 mph, troopers couldn't launch search and rescue efforts for 10 hours.

The Rescue Coordination Center coordinated, and rescue crews were able to reach the couple just before 3 a.m. Wednesday. They were picked up by a Pave Hawk helicopter, according to troopers, and taken to an Anchorage hospital.

Correction: An earlier version of this story said the parties were rescued by Black Hawk helicopters, not Pave Hawk helicopters; it said the group on the glacier was camping, but they were hunting; It said RCC responded to the search and rescues, but instead it coordinated the searches. 

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