UTAH (ABC4) – Officials are warning the public of high avalanche danger, Saturday.
According to The Utah Avalanche Center, there have been large natural avalanches occurring overnight and conditions at the moment are dangerous.
“Rising avalanche danger today with strong winds and heavy snow forecasted. Current danger rating is CONSIDERABLE but it may possibly rise to HIGH during any period of heavy precipitation. Avoid being on or underneath slopes steeper than 30° on mid and upper elevation west/north/east aspects,” writes the center.
Just last month, two men died after being buried in Utah’s avalanches.
The death of 57-year-old Kurt Damshroder marks the second person to die in an avalanche in Summit County last month.
His story, along with the late 31-year-old Kevin Jack Steuterman, have brought up heightened safety concerns in the backcountry.
Damshroder is the latest avalanche victim after being caught up in one in the backcountry.
Craig Gordon with Utah’s Avalanche Association said it is wise to listen to any warnings put out, especially if there is a high avalanche risk.
Damshroder had avalanche rescue gear with him when he died, but it wasn’t enough to save his life.
Avalanches may seem to strike without warning, making avoiding one seemingly impossible. But, according to the Utah Avalanche Center, avalanches are often triggered and there can be signs that one is about to happen.
Here are some interesting facts from the Utah Avalanche Center about avalanches that can help you be more prepared if faced with one:
- Avalanches are often triggered by people: In 90% of avalanche accidents, the victim or someone with the victim triggers the avalanche in some way. When natural avalanches occur, it is usually because snow is blown over weak layers of snow or rapid warming weakens the layers. In these cases, there are often clear signs that the snow is unstable.
- Avalanches are not usually made up of loose snow: Rather, dangerous avalanches are caused by plates or layers of snow which can weaken and shatter, causing them to slide. Avalanches made up of loose snow (called sluffs) do not often cause deaths or any notable damage.
- Avalanche debris settles like concrete: If you are buried in avalanche debris, it can be close to impossible to dig yourself out.
- Avalanches are not usually caused by loud noises: It would take vibration from an extremely loud noise, like an explosion, to cause an avalanche. The noise would have to occur very close and under already very unstable conditions in which an avalanche was likely to occur naturally anyway.
- Avalanche victims are often recreating in the backcountry: Snowmobilers are almost twice as likely to die from an avalanche than from any other snow activity.
- People caught in avalanches don’t die from lack of oxygen: Even dense avalanche debris is usually full of air. Those buried in snow are more likely to die from carbon dioxide poisoning which collects around their mouth.
- For avalanche victims, the first 15 minutes are key: 93% of buried avalanche victims are found alive if they are rescued within the first 15 minutes. After 45 minutes, only 20 to 30 percent are recovered alive.