ANCHORAGE (Alaska) • Three contestants mushing through the final stretch of Alaska's famed Iditarod sled dog course, two days after the winner had crossed the finish line, were rescued by helicopter from flooding caused by unseasonably warm weather, the authorities said.
The mushers were near the final checkpoint last Friday, just 35km from the finish line in Nome, when they ran into deep water and extremely high winds, according to representatives of the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race.
The three activated their emergency beacons and were plucked from the submerged trail by an Alaska National Guard helicopter team, with help from state troopers and other search-and-rescue personnel, officials said.
The dogs, all accounted for, were collected at the site and transported separately to Nome, where they were checked by veterinarians, a race spokesman said.
The rescued mushers flown to Nome - Mr Sean Underwood, Mr Tom Knolmayer and Mr Matthew Failor - were evaluated at a hospital and released, race officials said.
A series of storms brought howling winds and above-freezing temperatures to the Nome region, creating treacherous conditions near the end of the Iditarod trail.
Norwegian Thomas Waerner won the Iditarod early last Wednesday morning, mushing into Nome for a first-place showing witnessed by a much smaller crowd than typically throngs the finish line.
City officials had cancelled all festivities related to the famed sled race, and also asked out-of-town fans to stay away as a public health precaution amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Even Mr Waerner's wife watched the finish from afar. She had earlier flown back to Norway to avoid being stranded in Alaska by travel restrictions.