Search continues for hunters stranded by snowstorm

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NORTHERN ARIZONA - The largest search and rescue operation ever conducted in the state of Arizona is underway in the High Country.

Rescue crews are trying to track down hunters stranded by a blizzard that dropped up to three feet of snow on Northern Arizona.

Elk hunters are coping with snow drifts and freezing temperatures as they wait for rescue teams in Coconino County. So far a total of 50 men women and children have been rescued.

Chris Schagel, a hunter, says, “Everybody’s out there stuck lost…bad situation."

Hunters finished up the last day of elk season searching for elk and stranded hunters. Jerry Link, another hunter, adds, “We were gonna go back and look for the other guy."

In addition to the volunteers, professional search teams are spread out all over Coconino County. They have made contact with a number of stranded hunters who got in before the storm and cannot get out.

Search teams are rescuing hunters, but forcing them to leave their trailers and equipment behind. Jim Driscoll says, “Their vehicles’ travel trailers will stay ‘til conditions improve on the roads."

3TV talked to one group of hunters forced to leave their stuff behind on Sunday before the storm. They rented tractors on Thursday to dig a path out. They left everything behind when the snow hit but dozens of other hunters chose to stick it out.

Colt Spezzano explains, “Figured six inches...worse than people thought it'd be."

The dirt roads the hunters drove in on a week ago are now covered in 5-foot drifts. Some of the stranded hunters have propane and big trailers and food.

Others were just out in a tent, unprepared. Everyone who has been rescued is okay.