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Dorner Manhunt: How Could He Survive The Cold?

Sarah Parvini |
February 8, 2013 | 7:31 p.m. PST

Deputy Editor

KTLA 5 coverage of the Big Bear search early Thursday afternoon. (Brianna Sacks/Neon Tommy)
KTLA 5 coverage of the Big Bear search early Thursday afternoon. (Brianna Sacks/Neon Tommy)
As snow fell in Big Bear Friday afternoon, police continued searching cabins for leads on ex-cop and suspected killer Christopher Jordan Dorner, authorities said. 

The search has been hampered by blustery weather conditions that make it difficult to canvass the region. Heavy snow fell last night, while temperatures dropped to the 20s.

Tonight's temperatures are estimated to be even lower--a bitter 16 degrees, coupled with gusts up to 18 mph, according to the National Weather Service. Wind chill will make it feel like it's 13 degrees.

While police have also expanded their search beyond the ski resort and neighboring forest, there is still a chance Dorner is in the area, San Bernardino County spokeswoman Cindy Bachman told the Los Angeles Times

MORE: Social Media Reacts to Dorner's Manifesto 

Snowy conditions like Friday's create the perfect storm of danger for someone attempting to survive in the wilderness. If Dorner were still hiding in the forest, he would need to protect himself from the elements--shelter, including insulated clothing, and a barrier like a tent, cave or ridge to block the wind are imperative to staying dry, said Reggie Bennett, owner of Mountain Shepherd Wilderness Survival School.

"The elements are a hostile entity," Bennett said. "Combined with physical and mental stress the impact is unbelievable."

Hypothermia presents a very real threat to the unprepared in a survival situation, he said. In as little as 30 minutes, it can set in. People in the cold need to stay out of the wind, do their best to avoid sweating and remain hydrated. 

And for someone like Dorner, who on top of attempting to survive would also be evading police, weight becomes an issue. Bennett said Dorner would likely have a backpack in addition to his gun and ammunition, making it difficult to avoid sweating and increasing the risk of both hypothermia and exposure.

"If he sweats he needs a cabin or a fire, and if he lights a fire he's caught," he said.

But the weather doesn't just hurt Dorner, it makes things tricky for authorities as well. If he's still in the forest, snowfall grants the advantage of covering his tracks. Coupled with his military training and the fact that he likely knows everything Bennett explained, Dorner's experience makes finding a lead on his location difficult. 

"He knows their M.O.," Bennett said. "This is the worst situation they could be in."

He added that there are seven priorities to survival in the wild: positive mental attitude, first aid, shelter, fire and water craft, signaling and finding food. 

For Dorner, whose mental health is under scrutiny, mental attitude is key, Bennett said. When psychological stress saturates a person trying to survive, he often makes poor decisions. 

"You have to accept and recognize those stresses. It only takes a couple bad decisions and you're on your way out," he said.


Read more of Neon Tommy's coverage on Christopher Dorner here

Reach Deputy Editor Sarah Parvini here. Follow her on Twitter.



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