Public, fieldworkers, recreationalists cautioned that unusually heavy snowpack could spark larger, stronger avalanches in uncommon locations
Unusually deep snowpack in parts of Colorado’s northern and central mountains has the potential to produce dangerous avalanches in pathways that may not have run in decades, and that may run farther than they have in recent memory, according to the Colorado Avalanche Information Center and the Colorado Geological Survey.
Many of the federal government’s snow monitoring sites are recording snowpack levels of more than 160 percent of average, and include some areas with snowpack well over 200 percent of an average year. In many areas snow was still accumulating through the end of April. This may increase the likelihood for major avalanches during the melting season now underway.
The CAIC emphasizes that the public – including local governments and private companies that deploy fieldworkers to outdoor sites - need to be aware of this potential hazard and be prepared for very large events. This warning also applies after an avalanche, as it is important people do not enter debris zones until the area has been evaluated for further avalanche activity potential.
|Photo by Terry Onslow - Westside Avalanche Network
While rapid transition to above freezing temperatures, or a sustained period of warm temperatures could produce very large and destructive avalanches, large spring avalanches are not guaranteed. But the right weather conditions during May and early June could produce avalanches larger than we have seen in 30 to 100 years. Stands of timber, structures, and other assets in avalanche runout areas could be damaged or destroyed.
More information is available here, with a map showing federal Natural Resources Conservation Service SNOTEL data on snowpack levels and here, with photographs showing recent impacts of the Peru Creek drainage avalanche.
The CAIC also wants to remind rescue workers, demolition workers and other people that they should carry proper avalanche rescue equipment and use safe travel protocols. Staff from the Colorado Avalanche Information Center are available to advise on spring conditions and avalanche safety. Backcountry advisories are available at www.colorado.gov/avalanche through May 30th. In an emergency, staff can be reached at 303-204-6027.