Sheriff thanks hundreds of volunteers who searched for missing woman

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WAUPACA COUNTY, Wis. (WBAY) - UPDATE 9/7:

A 92-year-old woman who went missing Thursday afternoon has been found safe, according to Waupaca County's Sheriff.

Kathryn "Kitty" Wenckus was found Friday morning in some heavy brush about a half mile from her home, Sheriff Brad Hardel says.

Hardel says a search team comprised of volunteers, law enforcement and fire department personnel located Kitty.

Leah Looker, one of the search volunteers, told us, "We were all walking through and she shook the brush and made a little noise and one of the guys found her."

"Unbelievable outcome at this point. We're very happy to say we have located her and we're getting her medical attention," Hardel says.

Wenckus left her home in Chain O'Lakes sometime between 1:30 and 2:30 Thursday afternoon. A Silver Alert was issued just before 6:30 p.m.

Silver Alerts are broadcast for people with dementia or other cognitive impairments. Officials believe Wenckus is showing early signs of dementia and tell us she has recently been wandering farther and farther away from home during her walks outside.

Searchers were out all night looking for Wenckus as temperatures fell to the 40s. Crews used gear that can sense body heat and K-9s. Helicopters and drones searched from above.

"Forty-six, 47 degrees, elderly female at her age, obviously we had some major concerns of her being out all night -- hypothermia. That's why we were out all night doing searches with thermal imaging, with K-9s, with planes with drones," Hardel said.

"It was a long night, but I tell you what, we'd do it all again in a heartbeat to find somebody and this type of outcome."

The searchers found Kitty Wenckus at about 10 a.m. caught in some brush.

"It appears she was a little bit stuck on some downed trees in the area and talking, looking for help," Sheriff Hardel said.

"She's pretty shook up but she's talking and very alert and seemed like she had a lot of strength, and she was talking to the volunteers when they loaded her up. That was a good feeling," Looker said.

Wenckus was taken to a hospital for evaluation.

"At this point if she's talking. I'm extremely thankful for that," Sheriff Hardel says.

"It's an absolute blessing. You know, 92 years old, it was very emotional to see her and to find her, it was definitely a blessing," Looker said.

Hardel was incredibly grateful for the close to 300 people who showed up Friday morning to help with the search.

"I knew they'd show up and they did. Unbelievable. Very humbling," the sheriff said.

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The Waupaca County sheriff says numerous agencies are involved in a search for a missing, 92-year-old woman who's the subject of a Silver Alert.

Kathryn "Kitty" Wenckus left her home in Chain O'Lakes sometime between 1:30 and 2:30 Thursday afternoon. The Silver Alert was issued just before 6:30 p.m.

It's believed she's wandering near the city of Waupaca, Sheriff Brad Hardel said.

Silver Alerts are broadcast for people with dementia or other cognitive impairments.

"I believe there is some dementia in place so obviously that makes it a little more difficult," Hardel says.

Wenckus is a white woman who's 4'7" tall, about 105 pounds. She has short and wavy white and silver hair and hazel eyes.

Wenckus was wearing a gray, hooded sweatshirt, with the words "Chain O'Lakes, Waupaca WI" on it, over a lavender Polo shirt. She's wearing flannel, blue print shorts.

In an update Friday morning, Sheriff Hardel tells Action 2 News the search went all night with crews using gear that can sense body heat. Another K9 search was planned for Friday morning before more searchers would head into the woods.

"We're praying that we can locate her as soon as possible because with the weather, it got down to 46, 47 degrees last night," Hardel says. "At her age that's obviously a real concern. Every minute does count at this point here. We're doing our best to find her as quickly as possible."

A volunteer search was organized Friday morning (click here for updates if you want to volunteer).

"We're getting a lot of public support. A lot of people calling and asking if they can come and help," Hardel says. "As long as we can do it organized and they just don't show up on their own and start searching. Check in with us and we'll get you in a search team."

Sheriff Hardel says an area of just over 100 acres is being searched. He says Wenckus does not have a history of wandering off, but she does have some issues with dementia.

Thursday night the search involved the sheriff's office, a Wausau medical helicopter, Wisconsin State Patrol, DNR, Wisconsin Department of Justice, Waupaca and Weyauwega police departments, and the fire departments of Waupaca, Weyauwega, Iola, Manawa, Fremont and Saxeville.

Anyone who has information that might help locate Wenckus is urged to call the Waupaca County Sheriff's Office, (715) 258-4466.