Bad weather hampers search for missing Craters of the Moon hiker

Idaho StatesmanSeptember 29, 2013 

— Bad weather caused the search for missing Craters of the Moon hiker Jo Elliott-Blakeslee to be scaled back Sunday morning.

Sustained winds of 46 mph with a gust of 65 mph at the national monument caused fewer volunteer searchers to show up.

The 20 searchers who reported, down from 70 on Saturday, will continue to hike through areas where they believe Elliott-Blakeslee, a Boise physician who works at the Eastern Oregon Correctional Institution in Ontario, may have traveled.

"Today's focus will be on the east and south sides of Big Cinder Cone. Clues found over the past two days indicate Elliott-Blakeslee, 63, may be in that area," said Traci Weaver, a spokeswoman for the National Park Service.

Because of high wind warnings and poor visibility, a search helicopter is grounded, Weaver said. Several rescue dogs and handlers will be employed but rain that fell in the area has decreased the dogs' ability to locate Elliott-Blakeslee's scent.

Big Cinder Cone, at an elevation of 6,515 feet, is the highest point at Craters of the Moon. It is located east of the Tree Molds Trail where Elliott-Blakeslee and companion Amy Linkert, 69, a retired special education teacher from Lowell Scott Middle School in Meridian, were thought to be hiking.

Linkert's body was found Wednesday west of that trail. She died from exposure, authorities said. Elliott-Blakeslee was initially identified as the dead person, but the mistake was discovered when Linkert's dental records were made available and checked on Friday.

The pair left a trailer at a KOA campground in Arco on Sept. 19. They were scheduled to return home to Boise on Sept. 21. They were reported missing Monday when Elliott-Blakeslee failed to report for work at the prison.

Neither Linkert nor Elliott-Blakeslee were dressed for overnight temperatures that have dipped below freezing over the past week, authorities said. It's believed they planned to go on a short hike and then drive back to their camper.

They did not take food or water and were not dressed in protective clothing. They also left their dogs behind, which were discovered Tuesday.

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