police chief, flooded out car

Castle Rock Police Department investigator Tim Gorman sits on top of his flooded-out police car waiting for Denver firefighters to rescue him from a highway just after a major rainstorm in 2002.

Andy Cross/The Denver Post via Getty Images

One of the things that can really hamper rescuing someone in a disaster situation is the weather. What if the waves are too strong for a boat to aid a passenger stranded in the ocean? Or what if a blizzard descends on a couple trapped on a mountain in winter?

Wind, snow and heavy rain can turn the needle-in-a-haystack exercise of search and rescue work into a taller task by making it harder for rescue teams to get into remote areas like forests, mountain ranges and floodplains. Even seemingly minor weather events like cloud coverage can ground rescue helicopters. Extreme weather also makes it tough to find a person once on the scene by smearing tracks, interrupting communication lines and closing the window of time in which searchers can do their jobs safely [sources: Fox News, Ventura County Search and Rescue, Kramer].

That's why it's imperative for search and rescue teams to have accurate, up-to-date weather information when they are out in the field. Rescuers need to be aware of both the current conditions as well as those forecast for the duration of their search operation. Fortunately, there are a number of tools in the shed for emergency professionals to track extreme weather conditions, including some available with a few clicks of a smartphone.