Rescue teams struggled through several feet of snow Wednesday searching for a father and his three children who have been missing since they left to hunt for a Christmas tree over the weekend in a remote Northern California mountain range.
The teams were racing time and the elements, as a powerful storm
carrying even more snow was bearing down on the region.
Frederick Dominguez, 38, and his children - Christopher, 18, Alexis, 14, and Joshua, 12 - have been missing since Sunday in the region about 100 miles north of Sacramento.
Dominguez's pickup truck was found Monday night parked along a
mountain road some 25 miles northeast of Chico.
More than a foot of snow has fallen in the area since the family disappeared, and wind-driven snow drifts ranged from 1 to 7 feet deep, said Paradise Police Sgt. Steve Rowe.
Crews set out on foot and on snowmobile Wednesday morning and said they believe they have a window of a few good hours before another storm is expected to hit the area. Low clouds prevented aerial search efforts.
The family was not equipped to spend the night outdoors, wearing just T-shirts, jeans, light jackets and sneakers.
They were between 4,000 and 6,000 feet elevation in a rugged area marked by steep canyons.
Temperatures plunged into the 20s, Rowe said.
"They weren't expecting snow and they weren't thinking that they were going to be out there very long," Dominguez's ex-wife, Lisa Sams, told Fox News on Wednesday.
She said her former husband recently moved from Southern California to the rural, foothill town of Paradise to be closer to his children.
Rowe said some rescuers battled snowy conditions to continue the search overnight Tuesday.
The effort expanded significantly Wednesday morning, as snow had stopped falling for the first time since the family went missing.
More than 80 police and rescue workers were searching in a grid, and more were on their way from the San Francisco Bay area and Nevada.
The search intensified as another moisture-laden Pacific storm was heading toward California, expected to blanket most of the northern state with rain and snow by late Wednesday afternoon.
About 2 feet of snow is expected to fall Wednesday night and Thursday morning in the area where the family is missing, said Jared Leighton, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service office in Sacramento.
Winds gusts could reach 45 mph.