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Severe weather may halt search for missing Mt. Hood climbers

December 15, 2009 |  8:46 am


Whiteout conditions may prevent search and rescue crews from continuing efforts to locate two climbers missing on Oregon's Mt. Hood since Friday. Officials told Oregon Fox Television affiliate KPTV that "crews remain on standby" as the situation is being assessed almost hourly.

Authorities are still hoping that experienced climbers Anthony Vietti, 24, of Longview, Wash., and Katie Nolan, 29, of Portland, Ore., could be found alive.

Sadly, a third climber, Luke T. Gullberg, 26, of Des Moines, Wash., was found dead on Saturday. An autopsy showed that Gullberg died of hypothermia, said Clackamas County Sheriff's office spokesman Jim Strovink.

On Monday, a helicopter was able to search the summit after clouds cleared enough for the pilot and crew to examine high altitudes they were unable to scour previously, but no sign of the two climbers was seen.

Overnight temperatures on the 11,249-foot mountain dipped into the teens, with the forecast calling for a storm expected to bring a foot of snow.

Avalanche danger for Tuesday has been elevated to high, and the forecast from the Northwest Weather and Avalanche Center, is not promising:

"Temporarily decreasing snow showers might be seen again Tuesday morning. But I would not recommend travel in avalanche terrain Tuesday morning.

"Another front should cause renewed strong southwest winds, increasing moderate to heavy rain or snow and further warming Tuesday afternoon and night. Not surprisingly this is expected to further build layers of further increasing density and add more loads to previous layers. A renewed high avalanche danger should be seen Tuesday afternoon and night. This should become an increasing classic set up for new slab layers. New slab layers should be most likely on northeast to southeast slopes but may be possible on other aspects such as in the Cascade passes. Natural or triggered avalanches should become more likely Tuesday afternoon and night."

-- Kelly Burgess

Photo: A cloud caps Oregon's Mt. Hood. Search and rescue crews have been scouring the 11,249-foot mountain for two climbers missing since Friday. Credit: Don Ryan / Associated Press