Snowplows rescue stranded motorist at Bunny Flat

Staff Writer
Mount Shasta Herald

A woman stranded inside her Toyota Prius at Bunny Flat in last week’s heavy snowfall was eventually rescued by snowplow operators after Search and Rescue crews were stymied by deep drifts that forced them to abort their mission.

Lydia Briggs, a resident of Massachusetts, called the Siskiyou County Sheriff’s Office at about 10:45 a.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 27, to say she was stuck in deep snow and was unable to extricate herself, according to a press release from the Sheriff’s Office.

Briggs had reportedly ventured to the top of Everitt Memorial Highway on Sunday. By Wednesday, she was out of food and was melting snow to use as drinking water.

When Search and Rescue coordinator Mike Burns contacted her by cellphone, she said she was intermittently running her vehicle to stay warm and had less than a quarter of a tank of gas remaining in her fuel tank, according to the Sheriff’s Office.

A snowmobile was deployed, and later, a “Sno-Cat” to the location, but due to the approximately six feet of snow, operators had to abort the mission.

The Sheriff’s SAR team requested assistance from Eric Freeman and his Mount Shasta-based Siskiyou County Road Department crew, since the only way to reach the stranded tourist was to clear the deep snow from the roadway leading to the Bunny Flat parking area, the Sheriff’s Office reported.

Road department special equipment operators Garrett Richardson and Conner Ebel cleared the roadway with snow blowers to clear a path to Briggs’ car.

The county road crew “worked continuously under adverse conditions to clear the roadway,” said Siskiyou County Sheriff Jon Lopey. At approximately 10:30 a.m. on Thursday, Feb. 28, the road crew reached Briggs and managed to guide her back down Everitt Memorial Highway to safety.

“This is a good time to remind the public that although Bunny Flat is a very popular winter recreation area, the roadway leading to the attraction is susceptible to heavy snow fall and cannot always be plowed immediately after winter storms,” said Burns. “Motorists are warned they should be aware of changing weather patterns and avoid roadways and recreational areas, especially those at higher elevations, prone to heavy snowfall, especially under storm watch conditions. Motorists should ensure if they travel on county or other public roadways during inclement weather or during the winter season, to have a vehicle capable of traversing snow-covered roadways. Safety measures should include ensuring your vehicle has a full tank of gas, and all vehicles should be in good working condition and winterized. Motor vehicles driven in mountain areas should have tires with safe and legal tread depths, preferably, those rated for mud and snow-type terrain. Vehicles should be fully operational and have functional windshield wipers. All vehicle operators should carry chains and if possible, a small shovel.”

If traveling in mountain areas, motorists should have emergency supplies such as blankets, winter clothing, gloves, winter shoes and hats, and carry any medications needed in an emergency, Burns said. Motorists should also carry a charged cell phone, flashlight, water, food, and ensure they bring emergency food for any animals they may take along on the trip.

“Travelers should not travel alone,” Burns added. “Always notify a close relative, neighbor, or friend when you plan to depart on your trip, what route you plan to take, where you are going, and when you plan to return home. Always leave a reliable person with a contact phone number. Many advanced technology-type locater devices are available for purchase or rent, such as Global Positions System (GPS) devices, SPOT Locators, Personal Locator Beacons, Satellite Messengers, and similar devices. Remember, a mountainous location may not provide cell phone service. In short, traveling in mountainous areas takes preparation and proper planning to ensure if you are stranded for an extended period of time you will remain safe until rescued or until able to extricate yourself from an accident or weather-related predicament.”

Lopey expressed gratitude to the SAR team and Burns, as well as the Siskiyou County Public Works Road Department Crew, “whose hard-working and courageous equipment operators saved the day and ensured Ms. Briggs was rescued, despite the very challenging and hazardous environmental conditions they encountered during this critical mission.”