Center warns of hazardous avalanche conditions

Stock image, St. George News

ST. GEORGE – The Utah Avalanche Center is warning of hazardous avalanche conditions in the mountains of southeastern Utah including the La Sal and Abajo mountains.

Image courtesy of Utah Avalanche Center, St. George News
Image courtesy of Utah Avalanche Center, St. George News

“Dangerous avalanche conditions exist in the backcountry. Today the avalanche danger is considerable on all aspects at mid- and upper elevations on slopes steeper than about 35 degrees,” officials stated Saturday.

“Human-triggered avalanches are likely and backcountry travelers need to possess excellent route-finding and terrain-selection skills. Stick to sheltered, low angle terrain, and stay off of and out from under steep slopes today.”

An avalanche warning issued for the Moab area Friday has expired, but heavy snow and powerful winds have created dangerous avalanche conditions.

Backcountry travelers need to exercise extreme caution and possess excellent route finding and terrain management skills.

In the Abajo Mountains, Camp Jackson is reporting 8 inches of new snow at around 9000 feet elevation with up to a foot higher up.

Strong southwest winds blew on Friday, and new snow is falling on an extremely shallow and potentially very weak snowpack. Rocks, stumps, and dead fall are prevalent.

Current conditions

The mountains of southeast Utah have received 12-16 inches of new snow since Thursday night with 1.5-2 inches of water under hurricane-force conditions.

The first wave of snow came in heavy and wet under 30-50 mph southwesterly winds creating dense, upside-down snow conditions alternating with windswept and scoured areas, particularly above the tree line.

The second round of snow came in Friday night totaling about 6 inches of much lower-density snow and with light to moderate northwesterly winds. Sheltered, low angle terrain will be safest Saturday.

Avalanche safety

Avalanches can move at 80 miles per hour and are nearly impossible to outrun; the best way to stay safe is to avoid getting caught in one.

Backcountry skiers should always check conditions before leaving, travel with others and carry proper emergency beacons and other emergency gear.

Contrary to popular opinion, most avalanches that cause injury or death do not consist of loose snow, but rather are slabs – cohesive plates of snow that break like a pane of glass and slide off the mountainside.

These slabs become the consistency of concrete when they stop moving, making it nearly impossible for an avalanche victim to dig themselves out.

Avalanches don’t strike without warning, the happen at particular times and places for specific reasons.

“In 90 percent of all avalanche accidents, the avalanche is triggered by the victim, or someone in the victim’s party. Natural avalanches occur because new or windblown snow overloads weak layers or because of rapid warning,” officials state.

For more information or to check current avalanche conditions, see the Utah Avalanche Center website or call the Avalanche Advisory Hotline at 888-999-4019.

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2016, all rights reserved.


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1 Comment

  • .... December 17, 2016 at 1:22 pm

    This is absolutely a terrific article and I would like to thank all those involved in making this article possible so the winter hikers and skiers and people driving in those areas can be aware of the situation. Praise the Lord

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