Search and rescue officials encouraging people to avoid Red River Gorge

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PINE RIDGE, Ky. (WKYT)- With spring weather on the way and many state and national parks closing due to COVID-19, search and rescue officials in Powell and Wolfe Counties are expecting more people to crowd into Red River Gorge.

(Photo: WKYT)

However, they say this will put additional pressure on agencies that oversee safety in the area and put more people at risk.

Sister-station WKYT spoke with officials about their concerns.

While Governor Beshear has yet to close Red River Gorge, officials from both the Powell and Wolfe County search and rescue teams want to encourage people to get outdoors closer to home and avoid the gorge to prevent the spread of the virus.

John May, the director of the Wolfe County Search and Rescue team, says they have already responded to five calls from lost or injured hikers. Of those, four were people from out of town.

While search and rescue experts will be sent out more as the weather starts to warm up, May says are doing what they can to stay safe.

"When a call comes in, I'll evaluate the situation and instead of sending 10 to 12 people out for someone that's lost we'll send four," he says. "So, we're trying to minimize the number of people we put in harms way."

May says his team acquired a limited number of N-95 masks, but are in need of more. They are also searching for hand sanitizer so they can be better protected.