STORY UPDATED AT 7:52 p.m. at 5/19/13:
Alaska State Troopers say weather continues to hamper the search for two snowmachiners near Kotzebue.
Shallain Adams, 23 of Noorvik, and Clifford Griest, 32 of Selawik, left Kotzebue early Wednesday morning on a black Polaris IQ snowmachine destined for Selawik. Over 70 searchers from Kotzebue, Selawik, Noorvik, Kiana, Noatak and Buckland have been involved in the ground search, but “efforts have been hampered by periodic bad weather.
On Saturday, an Alaska wildlife trooper flew for a couple of hours before fog and blowing snow turned the pilot back.
On Sunday, Beth Ipsen, Public Information Officer with Dept. of Public Safety, reported that the wildlife trooper was “fueled up and ready to go,” however “freezing fog and blowing snow kept him on the ground.”
Ipsen says the Northwest Arctic Borough Search and Rescue team remains the main team coordinating ground searches and that people on the ground were turned back by the weather.
According to troopers, if the weather breaks, then an aerial search will happen a area east and northeast of Kotzebue in the York Bay area.
“There are a lot of shelter cabins in the area, so it’s possible they may seeking refuge from the wind and snow,” Ipsen wrote in an emailed response. “Luckily it hasn’t been cold, which works to their favor.”
Ipsen says, “this area is pretty flat and open, but there are lots of rivers, creek and a few lakes, plus a lot of willows that could hide them.”
Editor's Note: KTUU's Neil Torquiano contributed to an update of this story.
STORY UPDATED AT 1:12 p.m. at 5/17/13:
Ground and air searchers are trying to find two snowmachiners near Kotzebue who have been missing for more than three days, according to Alaska State Troopers.
AST spokesperson Megan Peters says Shallain Adams and Clifford Griest, last listed by troopers as living in Kotzebue and Kiana respectively, left Kotzebue en route to Selawik on a single snowmachine at about 2 a.m. Wednesday (May 15). It’s not clear why they were headed there, or why they left at such an early hour of the day.
Adams and Griest were reported missing to troopers at roughly 2:30 p.m. Wednesday , initiating a search that has expanded to include aid from several communities in the region.
“There’s ground searchers from Kiana, Noorvik, Kotzebue, Selawik and Buckland,” Peters said.
“Weather has been hampering the search, and they have pockets of bad weather moving around them,” Peters said.
Alaska National Guard spokesperson Maj. Guy Hayes says the 11th Air Force’s Rescue Coordination Center is providing aerial support as conditions in the area permit. An Air National Guard HC-130 Hercules search plane and an HH-60 Pave Hawk helicopter were sent to the region early Thursday, but weren’t able to participate in the search.
“Due to weather in the morning, they had to turn around,” Hayes said.
A second HC-130 flight was launched Thursday night and was able to spend some time looking for the snowmachiners, with a third flight scheduled to launch Friday. Hayes says the Guard is primarily using fixed-wing aircraft for the search, but can send in helicopters if necessary.
“If the request comes in, we can provide whatever support is needed,” Hayes said.
In addition to the Guard aircraft, Peters says Alaska Wildlife Troopers aircraft are also involved with the effort.
“RCC is continuing to contribute air assets, and they are coordinating with AWT and other local air assets,” Peters said.
Peters says she hasn’t heard of any signs of Adams or Griest being found during the search, which has been in progress for more than 80 hours. She says no decision has been made to suspend the search, and there have been no calls for separate searches in the state which might draw resources from the Kotzebue effort.
“It’s all taken in stride -- each case has its own circumstances surrounding it,” Peters said. “We do the best we can with the evidence that we have at hand.”
Editor's note: Alaska State Troopers say Adams' and Griest's locations of residence are the latest ones listed for them.
5-19-13: Date corrected for day snowmachiners went missing from Tuesday, May 14 to Wednesday, May 15 from info provided by troopers.
Contact Chris Klint