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The 5 Red Flags of Avalanche Conditions

NewsWatch 12 talked with an Avalanche forecaster about what to do if you find yourself caught in an avalanche.

Posted: Feb 21, 2019 9:55 AM

MT. SHASTA, Calif.,--Newswatch 12 talked with the lead forecaster at Mt. Shasta's Avalanche Center about the warning signs that avalanche conditions are present.

Forecaster Nick Meyers says that the avalanches are hard to predict, but there are warning signs that can help you determine if one is possible. Avalanches are possible for mountain slopes that are between 30 and 45 degrees steep. Here are the five red flags.

1. Recent heavy snow

2. Wind blowing the snow

3. Other recent avalanches

4. Cracking or collapsing in the snow pack when you step on it

5. Rapid warming after cold weather

You can see an updated avalanche forecast everyday on www.shastaavalanche.org.

On February 14th, Mt. Shata had an avalanche that Meyers describes as a "huge climax avalanche." 

"It came down well below tree line to about 7,200 feet. It traveled over 3 miles and about 5,000 feet and had debris piles up to 60 feet deep," says Meyers. 

Luckily, no one was injured but that avalanche and Meyers says that big of a movement is only something that happens every 30 or 40 years but this is something that could happen on Mt. Ashland as well. The risk of avalanches in designated ski areas is low, but once you go outside those boundaries, it becomes a possibility.

This time of year, people love to go backcounty skiing and snow showing, but the risks of avalanches comes with backcountry traveling. Meyers says it's important to go with a partner, have proper training, and carry proper equipment if you are going into the back country.

If you do get caught in an avalanche, try to grab onto something and do your best to stay on top of the snow. If you do go under the snow, the person that you are with will be the one saving your life.

"Your partner is your rescue team. Organized rescue, search and rescue teams and certainly available but they can't get there in time. You have about 15 minutes to dig up someone in an avalanche before they'll pass out and die," says Meyers.

He says that you should never leave you partner alone to go find help.

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