Group found after a day in snow prompts reminders about how to stay safe

By Chris Gonzalez (OPB)
Dec. 14, 2021 10:29 p.m.

“You never know when something unexpected might happen,” said one Lane County official. So when you head into the wild, be prepared.

Snow and ice blanket Hood River, Ore., Tuesday, Feb. 5, 2019. Winter weather complicated commutes in parts of Oregon Tuesday and may return later in the week.

Snow and ice blanket the wilderness as winter descends. Law enforcement and transportation agencies say Oregonians heading out to enjoy more remote parts of the state should take a few basic precautions.

Moriah Ratner / OPB


Two adults and three kids were found in the snowy wilderness of western Oregon on Monday afternoon, a day after they were reported missing.

The group headed out from the Springfield area for a fun day in the snow on Sunday. But family and friends started worrying when the group didn’t return that night by 8 p.m., when they said they would.

Tips came in that led the search party to Forest Service Road 19, near Box Canyon, about 40 miles east of Lincoln City. That’s where they found one of the missing people, who led the searchers back to the family’s truck, according to Sgt. Tom Speldrich with the Lane County Sheriff’s Office.

Speldrich said it’s possible the truck got stuck in the snow.


“You never know when something unexpected might happen,” Speldrich said. “It’s a good time for us to remember that if we’re going to be going out in the wilderness, that we go prepared, that we bring enough supplies to have an unexpected extended stay. "

That includes extra food, water, warm clothing and supplies to start a fire.

Here are some other things to keep in mind, from the Oregon Department of Transportation:

  • Check road conditions on your route before you go at TripCheck or by dialing 511. Plan your trip accordingly.
  • Allow extra time to get where you’re going. Travel is going to be slow.
  • Allow extra stopping distance. There is less traction on slick, snowy roads.
  • Brake gently to avoid skidding or sliding. If the wheels lock up, ease off the brakes.
  • Carry chains and know how to use them.
  • Make sure your vehicle is in top operating conditions, with clean headlights, good brakes, working windshield wipers and good tires.
  • Slow down when approaching off-ramps, bridges and shady spots where the snow often lingers longer.
  • Turn on your headlights to increase your visibility.
  • Be prepared for delays. Make sure you have a full tank of gas…and plenty of patience!
  • If you feel tired or if road conditions get rough, don’t be afraid to stop for the night.

When people travel in winter, it’s crucial that they tell others exactly where they’re going and when they plan on coming back. If those plans change, it’s important to update friends or family with a phone call rather than a text when cell coverage is available, according to Speldrich.

“As we get used to this day and age, it can be easy to think that you can be located using cell phones and cell towers,” Speldrich said, “but out there in the wilderness there aren’t enough cell towers to be able to rely on that as a resource to find you.”

All the more reason for people to let others know with as much specificity as possible what they’re plans are, so if searchers need to, they have a place to start looking.

“We’re blessed with these beautiful wildlands in Oregon,” Speldrich said, “but with it comes danger.”


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