Officials issue HIGH avalanche danger, ahead of President’s day weekend

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(ABC4) – Officials are warning the public of high avalanche danger, Saturday.

On February 13, The Utah Avalanche Center advises the public of avalanche safety as the officials gear up for high avalanche danger.

According to UAC, a warning is in place for the mountains of Northern Utah and Wellsville including the Bear River Range.

This warning will remain in place from 6 a.m. Saturday to 6 a.m., Sunday.

Officials say impacts not only will the snow be heavy, but it will also be unstable.

“Heavy snow and drifting have created widespread areas of unstable snow,” UAC writes. “Both human triggered and natural avalanches are likely.”

State heads urge the public to stay safe which conditions like these arise. Just a couple weeks ago, Utah witnessed it’s deadliest avalanche since 1992, which took the lives of four backcountry skiers.

Officials are closing off canyon roads leading to backcountry areas due to avalanche danger, Saturday morning.

UDOT Avalanche informs the public of road closures throughout the northern terrain of Little Cottonwood Creek.

RELATED: Massive avalanche caught on camera 

“All-terrain north of Little Cottonwood Creek from Gate B through Cardiff backcountry closed,” they share. “Please stay EAST of Cardiff Bowl and areas underneath Cardiff. Extends 1,000m into Big Cottonwood Canyon.”

According to UPD Sgt Melody Cutler, when avalanche danger is a factor, actions must be taken seriously.

Cutler says nobody should be in the backcountry when avalanche risk is extremely high.

RELATED: Community using social media to memorialize woman killed in Millcreek Canyon avalanche 

“I’m not sure if it’s the thrill or what it is, but it is really important to pay attention to those things,” shares Cutler. “There have been advisories out recently of very high avalanche danger. That exists. The current conditions and this is a very unfortunate circumstance that with these conditions and it actually happened and resulted in lives being lost.”

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. 

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.

Photo from 3’ deep avalanche on 2/1

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.

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