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Strong Thunderstorms, Lightning Causing Injuries In National Parks In The Rockies


Thunderstorms raking the Rocky Mountains this week have led to numerous injuries, and possibily one fatality, in national parks in the region. A mud-and-rock slide Thursday afternoon at Rocky Mountain National Park also reportedly trapped hikers in the backcountry.

The unsettled weather that has been present much of the week has resulted in three Glacier National Park visitors being struck by lightning, a Yellowstone National Park hiker being killed in an area where lightning was reported, and a Rocky Mountain National Park hiker being struck by lightning.

The lightning-strike incident at Rocky Mountain National Park was reported shortly after noon Thursday, when a visitor called for help with someone who had been struck by lightning on the Ute Trail that runs high above treeline off Trail Ridge Road.

"The patient was subsequently located approximately 100 yards from the Ute Crossing Trailhead on Trail Ridge Road, approximately one mile above Rainbow Curve," a park release said. "When rangers arrived to the area, the storm was still active with intense lightning activity. The patient was evacuated by park staff and Estes Park EMS down the trail to an awaiting ambulance. The patient was then transported by Estes Park Ambulance to the Estes Park Medical Center. The patient was a 65-year-old female. Her condition is not being released at this time."

Also Thursday afternoon, Rocky Mountain rangers responded to a report of a mud-and-rock slide on the Fern Lake Trail, in the Arch Rock Area, and the area of the Fern Lake Fire, about 1 mile from the Fern Lake Trailhead, park officials said.

"The report indicates that hikers may be unable to pass through the area due to debris. No injuries have been reported and no further information is available at this time," said the release. "Backcountry hikers and horse users have either negotiated the debris flow or have been rerouted to the Cub Lake Trailhead. The Fern Lake Trail is currently closed from the trailhead to 'the Pool' and will remain closed until further notice. Overnight campers in the area are being contacted in regards to the trail closure."

The National Weather Service also had issued a flash flood warning for the upper Big Thompson river drainage, including the area of the Fern Lake Fire, the park reported.

At Glacier National Park, officials reported Thursday that the three individuals who were hit by lightning on Wednesday were serious but stable condition, and were expected to remain hospitalized for several days.

A 23-year-old male from Kalispell, Montana, a 23-year-old female from Missoula, Montana, and a 11-year-old boy were hit by lightning late Wednesday afternoon as they were on the St. Mary Falls Trail on the east side of Glacier National Park. The three individuals are not family members, but were recreating together, the park reported.

"Several visitors in the proximity of the incident stated they quickly responded to the scene and successfully administered CPR to all three victims," said park spokeswoman Denise Germann. "It is believed that all three victims were unconscious and not breathing."

On Thursday morning, searchers in Yellowstone recovered the body of a young man who failed to return from a hike to Electric Peak.

The hiker, Joseph Austin Parker, 23, was reported missing Tuesday evening after failing to return from a trek to Electric Peak, a nearly 11,000-foot peak in the northwestern corner of the park. Park officials say the last contact made by the young man was a phone call to friends Tuesday afternoon during which he told them lightning in the area convinced him to head back to the trailhead.

Park officials said the cause of death was being investigated.

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