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3 caught, injured in avalanche in Idaho

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ST. CHARLES, Idaho — Search and rescue teams worked for hours Saturday to remove a man injured in an avalanche near the Utah-Idaho border from the canyon where the slide occurred.

The man was snowmobiling with two others in the area of Green Canyon near St. Charles, Idaho, when the avalanche occurred, Bear Lake County dispatcher Nina Nelson reported. She did not know who placed the call to 911 around 1:40 p.m.

Two members of Utah's Cache County Sheriff's Search and Rescue team were recreating in the area at the time, heard the slide and went to investigate. They discovered that a 28-year-old man had been caught in the avalanche and suffered a broken arm and two broken legs, Cache County Sheriff's Lt. Doyle Peck said.

But the difficult terrain and the risk of another avalanche slowed rescue efforts.

"He's up in the wilderness quite a ways and that's been the problem," Peck said. "We're scared of setting off another avalanche. The risk is very high right now."

Still, Peck said rescue crew members were with the man "pretty much all day" and paramedics were also able to respond, offer aid and administer medication. The man had to be lifted above the location where he was found, which rescuers believed was safer and more plausible than moving him to the bottom of the canyon.

Around 8:30 p.m., they succeeded in getting him to a snowcat, which took him to a waiting ambulance. Nelson said a medical helicopter wasn't able to respond to transport the man due to low visibly.

A storm rolled in during the rescue, forcing responders to work in white-out conditions. Peck said it was a multiagency effort that also included personnel from Franklin and Bear Lake County.

Toby Weed of the Utah Avalanche Center said the avalanche risk in the area had "risen drastically" the past few days due to heavy snowfall, strong winds and warming temperatures.

"The snow is really unstable," he said. "We have a slab of more cohesive snow developing on top of very weak, existing snow."

The conditions led to an avalanche warning for the area. Weed assessed the risk as high — just a step below extreme, which is the most dangerous category available — in an advisory Saturday morning.

"It's been well publicized that there's a danger of avalanches this weekend, so (the slide) is not surprising," Weed said. "In fact, I expect we will see a few more of the same."

He said the St. Charles Canyon area is a popular one for snowmobiling, but is also quite avalanche prone — "especially right now, with a rising danger in the backcountry."

He said he did not have any details on the slide itself as of Saturday evening, but the man who was injured could count himself fortunate.

"Most of the time we are lucky when it comes to avalanches," he said.


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