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Search for climbers hindered by blizzard

Dec. 15, 2006 at 6:56 AM

HOOD RIVER, Ore., Dec. 15 (UPI) -- The search for three climbers missing on Oregon's Mount Hood has been hindered by a severe blizzard.

Searchers were initially hopeful when a signal from the cell phone of one of the climbers, Kelly James, but the sheriff's office later described the signal as a "nonevent" that could have been the result of a dying battery, weather conditions or another unknown occurrence, the Portland Oregonian reported Friday.

"It's nothing we can hang our hat on," sheriff's Sgt. Gerry Tiffany said of the signal.

Rescuers searching for James, Brian Hall and Jerry Cooke have been blocked by blizzard conditions, which were expected to continue Friday with forecasts predicting hurricane-strength winds and up to 18 inches of snow. The climbers are believed to be taking refuge in a cave near the mountain's summit.

"We're really just waiting for the opportunity to get up to where we need to go," Chris Guertin, a Hood River County deputy sheriff, told the Oregonian.

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