Snow storm strands Havasupai rangers

Three rangers get sling load of supplies

GRAND CANYON, Ariz. - The heavy snows, which passed through northern Arizona Jan. 18-24, created tough conditions for rangers on the Havasupai Reservation, according to officials with the National Park Service. Three rangers were reported snowbound following the snowstorm on Jan. 25. Ira Blitzblau, South Rim District Ranger, said emergency services were contacted to help the group.

"We got a phone call from a relative of one of the Havasupai rangers," Blitzblau said. "She was concerned about the three rangers who were out there because they had no contact with them for some time. The next day we started working on putting together a load of supplies to send out to them."

The rangers were eventually contacted as well, Blitzblau said, where it was discovered that they were in need of supplies such as food and water, as well as food for their horses, gasoline for their generator and other needs.

"What their plan was, with fuel for the ATVs, was to break a trail to the west to Tokopokah Hilltop, where there is trail down into the Canyon to the Havasupai Reservation," Blitzblau said. "By breaking the trail to there, they would have been able to walk the horses to there and get them down into the Canyon."

Teams put together a sling load, which was brought by helicopter to the stranded rangers Jan. 26.

"It had food for the horses, fuel, some water and some food for them. The next day we actually sent some snow mobiles up there with some more fuel," Blitzblau said.

They received word Jan. 27 that the group made it to the reservation safely with all their animals.

"They got all the animals down out of the snow. I imagine they'll be back up there once the snow starts to melt a little bit," Blitzblau said. "They have anywhere from one to three rangers that stay up there all the time."

The station is located just south of the national park on the Forest Service Road number 328. The small station is found on a small piece of reservation land belonging to the Havasupai.

"They had a truck up there, they had ATVs out there, but because of the amount of snow they got the horses weren't able to get around in the snow and they weren't able to get out with the vehicle they had," Blitzblau said. "It just kind of snowbound them up there for a few days."

Flooding concerns were still relatively low, Blitzblau added.

"Usually when we get flooding it's a combination of a big snow load followed by rain, so we had a little bit of concern during the storm that came through, because it was predicted to have snow changing over to rain, so we were a little concerned that if we got a big snow load followed by rain, it would melt all the snow and we'd get a lot of runoff. That didn't really materialize. We had mostly snow," Blitzblau said. "Most of that land out there is out of the forest. It's in the pinyon-juniper stage flat. So usually the snow will melt off and a lot of that moisture will evaporate and soak into the ground. Unless we get a considerable amount of more snow, usually we need rain on top of that snow to make it all melt at once, to really get a flood going. We don't have any immediate concerns for flooding right now."

Blitzblau said the park service has always had a good working relationship with the Havasupai people.

"These are our neighbors out there and we try to work with them on a regular basis," Blitzblau said. "Earlier this year we had lost a horse and the horse ended up out there. They found the horse and were able to bring back in to us. We definitely work well with them."

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