Idaho weather conditions misleading backcountry drivers | News
Even though North Idaho is experiencing low snow levels, back country drivers are stumbling upon an unexpected hazard as they joyride through forest service roads. Trail heads remain clear and open, but the farther they trek into the forest, they find snow and it’s deep.
It’s becoming a hassle for the Kootenai County Sheriff’s Office and their search and rescue crews to help stuck drivers who didn’t expect their vehicles to break the crest of deep snow. Sgt. Ryan Higgins says they’ve had to rescue about ten people already this year.
“Last weekend we had a couple of gals, late teens, get stuck driving around in a Subaru Wagon, getting into snow too deep for them,” Higgins explained.
During the calm winter weather, Higgins says average citizens are driving their vehicles along these forest service roads. At some point they’re unable to turn around or get out once they’ve broken through the snow crest.
“We get these calls late at night and then we have to call search and rescue,” Higgins said.
“Last night we had a call of a stranded motorist off of Forest Service Road 406 between Fernan Saddle, coming up Hayden Creek. They made it to Burnt Cabin Summit, fairly close to town, but they go on the other side of it. Members of my team rescued the two people, but while going there they found another rig that was stuck. And then a third rig that was also stuck. That vehicle had help on the way.”
This is unusual for this time of year. Typically the forest service roads are closed and barricaded due to snowmobile grooming. An ordinance says once grooming begins, motor vehicles have to stay off the roads so ATV and snowmobiles can go through.
Higgins says this year they’re not allowing the groomers to groom without snow at the trail head. That means the roads can’t close and drivers wander into these potentially dangerous situations.
Stuck drivers run the risk of hypothermic conditions if they attempt to walk out. On Wednesday, one driver walked out and found help after his vehicle became stuck at Hayden Creek.
With no restrictions in place to deny drivers, the Sheriff’s Department suggests a couple safety measures to protect people. Before trekking out there, tell a friend or relative where you’re going and when to expect you. They also recommend being dressed for the cold weather and bringing along enough food and water.
If a driver does become stuck in the snow, they should stay with their vehicle until help arrives.