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Summary: 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 […]
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Courtesy: Utah Avalanche Center

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.

Photo from 3’ deep avalanche on 2/1

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. 

  • An ambulance heading to an area hit by avalanches, waits for a blocked road to be opened, in Keran, a small town in Neelum Valley, Pakistan-administered Kashmir, Tuesday, Jan. 14, 2020. Severe winter weather has claimed more lives as avalanches triggered by heavy snowfall killed more than 50 people in Pakistan-administered Kashmir while a dozen died in neighboring Afghanistan, officials said Tuesday. (AP Photo/M.D. Mughal)
  • In this Feb. 3, 2021, photo provided by Stephanie Rice of the Alaska Mountain Rescue Group, two volunteers are shown after an avalanche in the Bear Mountain area near Chugiak, Alaska. The rescue group and troopers found the bodies of three hikers in the avalanche slide. (Stephanie Rice/Alaska Mountain Rescue Group via AP)
  • Emergency service members work in the snow around overturned vehicles, near the town of Bahcesaray, Van province, eastern Turkey, Wednesday, Feb. 5, 2020. An avalanche slammed into a mountain road in the province, which borders Iran, wiping out a huge team of rescue workers sent to find two people missing in an earlier avalanche. (Yilmaz Sonmez/IHA via AP)
  • FILE – In this Feb. 25, 2013 file photo, a skier takes advantage of the snowy conditions at Silver Mountain in Kellogg, Idaho. The Shoshone County Sheriff’s Office said Tuesday, Jan. 7, 2020, it received reports of up to three separate avalanches on the mountain and that emergency responders were coordinating rescue efforts. (Kathy Plonka/The Spokesman-Review via AP)
  • SLC skier triggered 600 foot-wide avalanche that killed him_20160123001506
  • Rescue forces and helicopters still search for missed persons after an avalanche swept down a ski piste in the central town of Andermatt, canton Uri, Switzerland, Thursday, Dec. 26, 2019. Six people have been rescued, two of them with minor injuries but cantonal authorities fear that several other people may be buried. An extensive rescue operation is underway. (Urs Flueeler/Keystone via AP)

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.
Courtesy: UTAH AVALANCHE CENTER
  • 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.