Editor's note: This updates with plans to use a helicopter to pull the trio out of the backcountry.
Winter's latest punch to the East caught three Appalachian Trail hikers in Great Smoky Mountains National Park unprepared and needing to be rescued by rangers, who called in a helicopter to lift the three out.
The three men from Gaffney, South Carolina, -- Shawn Hood, Steven White, and Jonathan Dobbins -- had set out from Fontana Dam on Thursday with plans for a ten-day hike. But last night they called rangers to say they were cold and wet and needed help as they were unable to walk and had no shelter.
Responding rangers were able to reach the trio -- all between the ages of 21 and 32 -- and brought dry clothing and tents.
"They are being treated for hypothermia and possible frostbite. All three are very weak and cannot walk," said Kent Cave, the park's supervisory ranger. "Plans have been made to extricate the hikers using a helicopter from the North Carolina Helicopter and Aquatic Rescue Team (HART) early this afternoon."
Overnight temperatures in the park were reported to be "in the single digits and winds gusting to 35 miles per hour made wind chills near 20 degrees below zero," the park reported. "Blowing snow created drifts up to two feet. Rescue efforts were hampered by weather, road, and trail conditions, as well as the remote, rugged location. The men were located some 5 miles from the nearest trailhead."