Fri. Feb 26th, 2021

By James Anderson, associated Press

Denver (AP) – Avalanche and two people killed in Colorado caught in an avalanche day weekend show how backcountry skiers and others in Rocky Mountain wilderness trigger vulnerable layers of snow that created the most dangerous situation Done. A decade, the forecast says.

The avalanche has killed at least 25 people in the United States so far this year – more than 23 who died last winter. Usually 27 people die in an annual avalanche in the US.

Avalanche forecasters say they have rarely seen the threat so far – and that it will increase as more ice moves into the Rockies, adding weight and stress to a weak, granular base layer to break the ice. Is susceptible and is particularly wide slides on steep slopes.

The main culprit is the ground layer of snow that fell in October. A dry November weakened it, which is anywhere from several inches (centimeters) to several feet (meters) thick, and despite falling more snow, it rests on the consistency of granulated sugar, said Dave Xin, Gallatin. Avalanche Forster National Center for National Forest Avalanche in southwestern Montana.

“The layer consists of large, sugary crystals that do not bind together well. It is impossible to make a snowball. When it loses weight, it becomes fragile and breaks,” on top of it. Bringing down heavy layers of water, Xin said.

“This is the weakest link in the series. When you pile on more snow, there is always one place to break, ”said Ethan Green, director of the Colorado Avalanche Center.

Ski Craig Kitto, a 45-year-old backgrounder from Bojman, Montana on Sunday, was badly injured when he and a companion climbed the crack without warning, collapsed and fell down a tree. The other person was not hurt.

Similar conditions may have led to the death of 57-year-old David Heade, a backcountry skier whose body was found on Sunday in an avalanche debris farm in Clear Creek County, central Colorado. In neighboring Grand County, an avalanche drove a snowmobiler on a frozen lake on Sunday, and his body was found buried in snow. A coroner is investigating.

On February 6, Utah saw its deadliest avalanche in nearly 30 years, when four backcounter skiers in their 20s were killed and another four dug themselves out of Salt Lake City’s 1,000-foot (300-meter) slide.

Several factors are at play in the rash of deaths: the snowcap, which can be affected by the shaking of the layers of air and the weakening of the layers of ice; Weather conditions that can change rapidly in high-altitude rocks; And the availability of public lands in the US West, where people often take advantage of an easily accessible national forest.

In contrast, ski areas have for a long time ensured that their slope is prepared, a potential avalanche is triggered in their areas, and the surrounding areas are closed before the first customers hit the lift lines Go It is not uncommon for skiers in the Loveland Ski Area of ​​Colorado to target the Howitzer, risking the peaks that fly at an altitude of 13,000 feet (3,950 m) along the continental divide.

“Ski patrols do a lot of work to reduce hazards,” Xin said. “But in backwardness, we must specialize in our avalanche.”

Avalanche centers in Colorado, Montana, and Utah, as well as the US Forest Service National Avalanche Center, issue daily advice on conditions and levels of risk, as well as safety and training resources.

Colorado Government. Jared Polis and the State Parks and Wildlife Agency urged residents to investigate the conditions at the end of this holiday week, citing high danger. The Colorado Avalanche Information Center issued a special advisory on Monday, warning that “large, wide and long-lasting natural and human-triggered avalanches are likely.”

Are people getting the message?

“A hard one to answer,” Green admitted on Monday. “Yesterday was sad, a terrible thing. We do not know how many messages were received and some other form of entertainment followed. We do not know how many people have made it safely. “

Predictors emphasize standard precautions before going into the backcover:

– Rescue gear is: a beacon, a shovel to check snow conditions. Learn how to use them.

– Check the daily forecast.

– Keep an eye out for recent avalanche activity.

– If possible do not do it alone. Make sure that only one person from your party is in the exposed area at any given time.

“The bottom line is that partner rescue is the only way we have positive results in backcount,” Xin said.

Record the cold temperature in Rocky “reduce your margin for error”. “If you have an accident, minor injuries become serious, and fatal with the compounding factor of severe hypothermia.”

Green said that while the wildest parts of public land have adventures, “the freedom to go where you want is your responsibility to handle yourself.”

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