Friday, May 3, 2013

Deadly Spring Snows

This was the scene we woke up to on May 1, 2013.


Another Spring storm had blanketed the area with snow. That makes at least one storm a week since the first of April. And each storm has given us any where from 6" - 24" of snow. Now I'm not complaining....living in the arid West gives a person a whole new appreciation of any moisture. No matter the form it comes in.


But these Spring storms, though beautiful and usually short lived, can be deadly. A report coming from Grand County in Colorado (a county located in the central mountains west of Denver) recently told of the deaths of an estimated 100-200 birds. The heavy Spring snows covered the birds food sources and the birds starved to death.


And more recently, an avalanche occurred in the Colorado High Country killing five men - the state's deadliest avalanche in more than 50 years. These backcountry snowboarders were all experienced and were equipped with avalanche safety equipment (Avalung breathing device and avalanche airbags). But the avalanche which this group triggered happened so quickly, the group had no time to react. There was one survivor - he wasn't buried as deeply as his companions and his lower left arm was free which enabled him to clear the snow away from his face so that he could breath. He was buried over 4 hrs before help arrived.

image source

In the above picture a cornice of snow is about to fall. Cracks in the snow are visible in area (1). Area (3) fell, leaving area (2) as the new edge.
This recent deadly avalanche was a slab avalanche, which occurs when a thick layer of hard snow breaks loose from a weak, deep layer of snowpack underneath. Most frequently, this will occur when snow has been deposited or redeposited by wind.


These Spring Storms have come not only with snow but with high winds. On a recent trip to the High Country. Hubby & I observed deadly overhangs or cornices on almost every mountain peak - the snow being deposited there by the winds. These overhangs are just waiting for the right trigger to set them on a course down the mountain.


Always be aware when trekking in the mountains. Mother Nature is nothing to be trifled with.

2 comments:

Debra She Who Seeks said...

There are many deadly avalanches every year in our Rocky Mountains too. Usually the victims are skiers, snowboarders and snowmobilers who go into the unregulated and dangerous back country.

mrsduncanmahogany said...

Although we had snow May 1st as well, it did not stick. Avalanches are so dangerous...can happen anytime. I would never venture out there...