Down here in the Lower 48, we take it for granted that weather forecasts are ubiquitous, and some kind of rescue response is never more than a cell phone call away. But up in Alaska, the environment is no joke. Weather is wildly unpredictable. There are basically three major paved highways in a state with a landmass that swallows Texas like a big kid at a cake party. Cell coverage? Hilarious. If you aren’t on one of those afore-mentioned roads or in a city/town/village (yep), forget about it.
But when things go awry in Alaska, and they often do, Alaskans are covered by an integrated SAR system that activates hundreds of times a year. The myriad SAR options that exist up there are a topic for another post, but Alaskans know that between the private groups, Alaska State Troopers, Coast Guard, and the Alaska National Guard; a citizen in need at least has a shot at getting help.
That’s exactly what happened this weekend. The first big winter storm of the season rolled through and dropped 15-20″ of fresh on four ATVers (three adults, one child) who were 12 miles into a 20 mile return leg when they were stopped cold by the weather and found themselves ill-equipped to survive the environment.
What happened next happens, on average, once a week throughout the year – the Alaska State Troopers contacted the 11th Air Force Rescue Coordination Center (RCC) at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson in Anchorage, and the RCC launched a HH-60G Pave Hawk from the 210th Rescue Squadron loaded with two PJs from the 212th Rescue Squadron.