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Jan 27, 2013 12:36 AM by Sam Salzwedel

Deputies rescued dozens of hikers

TUCSON - Pima County Sheriff's deputies had to rescue about 50 people from the Catalina Mountains Saturday.

They were stranded because running washes cut off the trails to get back down the hills. It did not even rain much at the lower elevations, but the water flowed down from the top.

Search and Rescue deputies helped Michael Rolland cross a wash near the Bear Canyon trailhead.

"Rescue team member was behind us with a hand on that flotation device," he said, "and they strung a rope across, and so we had to grab the rope and sidestep across the river."

The search started after 2 p.m. and ended around 8 p.m.

An Arizona Department of Public Safety helicopter helped with the search and even airlifted about a half dozen hikers.

After dark, deputies prepared water bottles with chemical lights and notes. They planned to throw them from the DPS helicopter. The note told hikers help was on the way, to stay where they are and call 911.

Deputies say it was a huge operation but they were ready.

"People simply do not take the weather conditions and the quickly changing weather conditions into account," Deputy Tom Peine said. "We're ready to deal with it and bring these people to safety."

Rolland said he learned his lesson.

"Don't hike in the rain," he said. "Listen to my girlfriend who told us, 'Don't hike in the rain.'"

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