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'It just turned terrible': Trail runners near Francis Peak are rescued amid a foot of new snow

Farmington Canyon was closed for a time Saturday as search and rescue efforts were underway to locate ultra marathoners stranded in severe weather, dispatchers confirmed. (Jake Leonard)


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FARMINGTON — The approximately 87 stranded runners along the DC Peaks 50 ultra trail route Saturday are safe, after they became endangered by winter weather at the peak.

Several of the rescued runners were treated for hypothermia and one runner sustained injuries in a fall, according to Davis County Sheriff Kelly Sparks. All runners were released at the scene and none were hospitalized.

"We feel very fortunate today that there were no serious injuries," Sparks said.

Davis County Sheriff's Office Search and Rescue responded to assist the runners, who were caught in bad weather along the mountains east of Davis County around 9:30 a.m. All runners were accounted for by 2:45 p.m., said Sparks.

The race began at 5 a.m. and about four hours into the 50-miler, severe weather conditions hit, a man told KSL. Search and rescue teams traversed the course on foot and used snowmobiles and other vehicles to locate runners scattered across the race route and bring them off the mountain, Sparks said.

"We found people in various states of distress," Sparks said, adding that some runners were wearing as little as shorts and a T-shirt.

A full search and rescue team was deployed to Francis Peak, where conditions included low visibility, snow 12 to 18 inches deep, 20 degrees and wind speeds of 30 mph and swirling.

The race, which began at East Mountain Wilderness Park in Kaysville and was set to end at Tunnel Springs Park in North Salt Lake, was canceled mid-day due to the conditions. Organizers of the event, however, late Friday had encouraged runners to come prepared for inclement weather.

Runner Kelcey McClung Stowell said organizers told runners to expect rain, but as runners continued up the mountain, the rain turned to snow, wind and cold temperatures.

"We thought, 'we'll be OK once we get to Francis Peak and then we start coming down the mountain. We'll be out of the snow and it'll be fine,'" Stowell said. "But it just turned terrible. It was just like a blizzard up there."

The storm system brough heavy rains through the night, and snow to higher elevations, including Francis Peak. Solitude Mountain Resort reported a foot of new snow as well. More than a half an inch of rain fell north of the Great Salt Lake. The Utah Highway Patrol reported dozens of accidents on Utah roads, particularly in Salt Lake County, due to the slick conditions. They urged drivers to stay safe.

Rescue teams in Davis County said the incident there served as a good reminder to people as the seasons change.

"Just a friendly reminder to be aware of weather conditions before you head out to enjoy the great outdoors," the Davis County Sheriff Search and Rescue team posted online.

Contributing: Lisi Merkley; Adam Small, KSL NewsRadio

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