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Phone map, again: Woman and rescuer are rescued on Dolores-Norwood Road

Two people had to be rescued on the Dolores-Norwood Road Monday morning after their vehicles got stuck in snow. The drivers relied on GPS phone maps that suggested the route, which does not have winter maintenance. (Courtesy Dolores County Search and Rescue)
Man gets stuck while trying to rescue wife on snowy, unmaintained road

It happened again.

Motorists relying on GPS route-finding technology had to be rescued on the snowy Dolores-Norwood Road, according to Dolores County Search and Rescue.

On Dec. 12, a woman heading south from San Miguel County relied on mapping directions from her phone to take the Dolores-Norwood Road, which does not have winter maintenance.

South of Norwood, her vehicle hit snowpacked roads, and she slid into the ditch. She called her husband for a rescue.

He also used a phone map that suggested the fastest way was to take the Dolores-Norwood Road from the south.

The husband, with his father as a passenger, made it 29 miles to just south of the turn off to Groundhog Reservoir before bogging down in deep snow and getting stuck in ditch, said Keith Keesling, operations director for Dolores Search and Rescue.

The stranded driver called 911 Sunday night, and the search and rescue team was dispatched. The team reached the stranded party early Monday morning in the middle of the night. The vehicle was left behind.

The woman and her stuck vehicle were rescued by San Miguel County.

No one was injured, and both vehicles were recovered the next day before a storm hit.

Keesling said the man saw a sign warning of no winter maintenance and added that he had concerns about driving on a road full of snow.

“But his phone said that was the way, so he kept going,” Keesling said. “They were ecstatic when we arrived.”

The temperatures had dipped to 23 degrees. The people rescued reportedly were not adequately prepared for winter weather and did not have chains.

Use common sense and situational awareness when traveling in winter, Keesling said.

“This is winter backcountry, do not follow Google maps suggesting the fastest or or shortest routes that are off the main highway in winter,” he said. “Respect no winter maintenance signs, recognize when a road is impassible. Too often, when a phone map shows the shortest route between two points in the backcountry, it leads to a rescue.”

The Dolores Road closed this week to vehicle traffic for the season. On the south, the closure begins at the Kinder Morgan plant. On the north the gate is south of Norwood.

In December 2020 motorists relying on GPS route-finding technology triggered six of rescues on the snowy Dolores-Norwood Road, forcing an early winter closure.