On Friday, the National Weather Service based in Raleigh, N.C., issued a winter storm watch for much of the state ahead of a powerful system that would cut off power to about 200,000 people, prompting warnings from officials along the East Coast urging residents to stay home.
“All locations will have at least some snow, sleet and freezing rain, with the highest snow totals northwest of I-85,” the National Weather Service tweeted. The watch was valid from midnight on Sunday through early Monday.
Also on Friday, North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper (D) warned people in his state “to prepare for a significant incoming winter storm” and to pay close attention to local weather forecasts. Hours later, the NWS Raleigh forecast office upgraded its winter storm watch to a weather advisory — “hazardous” conditions and “dangerous impacts” could hit without warning, the agency tweeted.
But the warnings did not stop a man from setting out Saturday along the 30-mile Art Loeb Trail in Pisgah National Forest, where he would hike and camp, the Haywood County Search and Rescue team said in a Facebook post. The strenuous trail, which takes hikers up to the summits of the Black Balsam Knob and Tennent Mountain in western North Carolina, is considered difficult even in good weather.
The hiker, who authorities have not identified, soon needed help.
As conditions worsened Sunday morning, the man, who had spent the night in frigid temperatures, feared the weather was “more than he was prepared to handle,” the county’s search-and-rescue team said.
It took six members of Haywood County’s mountain-rescue team — dressed in bright orange winter gear and, eventually, six pairs of snowshoes — to reach the stranded hiker, authorities said. They braved slippery conditions and low visibility in a four-wheel-drive truck before making the rest of the trek on foot.
The case is among several recent close calls involving hikers across the country. In October, a hiker who got lost exploring Colorado’s highest peak ignored rescuers’ calls and text messages because he or she did not recognize the phone number. Local authorities sent out a team of at least eight rescuers who embarked on an hours-long search, only to be notified that the hiker had safely returned to their lodging.
Another hiker in November was ordered to repay the $2,880 that it cost rescuers to save him when he got lost years earlier searching for a treasure chest hidden in Yellowstone National Park. He was also banned from entering Yellowstone for five years.
On Sunday, the man hiking in North Carolina called authorities around 10:15 a.m. By 11:30 a.m., the team of rescuers headed up the mountain in a truck, but they swiftly encountered an issue, authorities said. The road, which had been closed off to all cars except emergency vehicles ahead of the winter storm, was covered by a wintry mix of sleet and snow. It was deemed unsafe.
The team still advanced through the trailhead until conditions were too hazardous to reach the hiker by vehicle. The six rescuers then exited the truck and slipped into snowshoes.
The man was found without any injuries, authorities said.
“The hiker was in good spirits, despite the long night he just endured and was able to walk out on his own power alongside the team of rescuers,” authorities said.