North Carolina crews hike to rescue stranded camper amid winter storm

Image 1 of 4

Group photo: From left to right: Rescuers Nancy East, Kyle James, Graham Ebaugh, David Blackburn, Eric Sollie, not pictured, David Walker.  ((Credit: Nancy East / Haywood County Search and Rescue, Haywood County, NC))

A man who decided to go camping in the western North Carolina mountains despite a pending winter storm later had to be rescued, with emergency crews being forced to ditch their vehicle and strap on snowshoes in order to reach him.

Haywood County Search and Rescue said they located and helped the unidentified hiker along the Art Loeb Trail near the Shining Rock Wilderness Sunday in the middle of Winter Storm Izzy.

Rescue crews said the man planned to go hiking and camping but when the weather conditions worsened, he called for assistance in getting back around 10:15 a.m. ET Sunday. 

The six-member team then set out. Around 11:30 a.m. ET, they headed up on the mountain on the Blue Ridge Parkway to the Black Balsam trailhead. 

They described the road conditions as "treacherous with less than 100 feet of visibility and a wintry mix of sleet and snow falling."

The crew drove a 4-wheel-drive truck but when the road conditions became too difficult on Ivestor Gap Road, they put on their snowshoes and traveled on foot to reach the stranded hiker. 

"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," the team posted on their Facebook page. 

"Please remember to check the weather forecast for the day of your hike as well as a few days beyond," members added. 

Winter Storm Izzy dumped as much as 10 inches of snow in some areas of western North Carolina as the system moved across the southeastern U.S., said Brian Hurley, a meteorologist with the Weather Prediction Center in College Park, Maryland.

First Sgt. Christopher Knox, a North Carolina Highway Patrol spokesperson, said that by midafternoon, the agency had responded to 300 car crashes and nearly 800 calls for service. Two people died Sunday when their car drove off the road and into trees in a median east of Raleigh. The driver and passenger, both 41-year-old South Carolina residents, were pronounced dead at the scene of the single-vehicle crash. Knox said investigators believe the car was driving too fast for the conditions, described as mixed winter precipitation.

Durham police tweeted a photo of a tractor-trailer that slid off an N.C. Highway 147 overpass in Durham. The truck’s cab appeared to have landed upright on Highway 15-501 below, while the trailer came down in a vertical position from the bridge to the highway below. Police spokesperson Kammie Michael said the driver was stable with injuries that did not appear life-threatening.

Outages, which had ballooned to a quarter-million customers earlier in the day, stood at around 130,000 customers by late Sunday, according to North Carolina was the hardest hit, peaking at some 90,000 outages. Parts of Georgia, South Carolina, Florida, Virginia and Kentucky also lost power.

Image 1 of 5

Winter view from Charlotte as winter storm Izzy creates dangerous conditions in Charlotte, NC, United States on January 16, 2022. (Photo by Peter Zay/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

The storm system could cause hazardous driving conditions over a large portion of the eastern U.S. through Monday as the wet roadways refreeze in southern states and the storm turns and moves northward through the Mid-Atlantic states and New England.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. This story was reported from Los Angeles.