Experts warn recent weather could cause increased avalanche activity

Posted at 11:59 AM, Mar 27, 2019
and last updated 2019-03-27 13:59:59-04

KALISPELL – As temperatures continue to climb, experts warn of spring avalanches, which have already ramped up and are occurring more often than normal in the Flathead Valley.

Just this past week, more than 100 avalanches were reported in a small area in the Flathead Valley.

Zach Guy with the Flathead Avalanche Center said spring avalanches occur when dry, cold snow suddenly becomes over-saturated with melt-off.

Over-saturated snow loses stability and the snow rolls, traveling at high speeds.

Guy said the number of avalanches this year is unusual as February brought lots of snow while March had cold weather followed by a rapid thaw. That type of weather makes for hazardous conditions for avalanches.

“We probably saw the most destructive avalanches of the whole year just this past week,” Guy said. “They were huge and they were massive debris piles that were snapping trees. They could destroy a train, a car, houses.”

If you’re heading to backcountry to ski or hike, Guy suggests you go prepared by bringing a shovel and carrying an avalanche beacon.

The West Central Montana Avalanche Center is reporting the risk of slides in the Missoula region is still “moderate” after Tuesday morning’s rain.