Scott: Either cold and wet or hot and dry, weather has been all over headlines recently. And Maggie Rulli shows us how these strange weather conditions are creating deadly situations.
Maggie: An avalanche near Leadville, Colorado over the weekend killed two skiers and sent three to the hospital. It was the third deadly slide in the state in less than a week. Just a few days before in Oregon, an avalanche took the lives of two other skiers.
In the last week alone, there have been hundreds of reported avalanches across the Mountain West. Brian Lazar, Deputy Director of the Colorado Avalanche Information Center, says this level of avalanche activity is unusual.
Brian Lazar: Some of the avalanches we are seeing right now, particularly in the last couple weeks across the state of Colorado, are as big as they’ve run in decades.
Maggie: The trigger? Record amounts of snow piling up in the mountains. But the temperature is warmer than normal, meaning all that snow can melt and become unstable.
Andrew Baglini: Now the jet stream is coming in more from the west off of the Pacific, so we are not getting that cold air. What we are getting instead, heavy snow, even some rain at times and gusty winds. And because we don’t have that cold, it’s a lot more unstable in the mountains.
Maggie: At least 14 people have been killed by avalanches across the Mountain West since December. Six of those deaths occurred last week alone.
Avalanche warnings are posted from Washington State to Utah. Yet warnings don’t always stop skiers.
Sheriff Ron Fenske: We get a lot of people up here cross-country skiing all winter long. One of our biggest fears is just what happened.
Maggie: Kevin Kuybus, one of the two skiers killed by the avalanche in Colorado over the weekend, was cross-country skiing. He and his group were prepared, but it wasn’t enough.
Sheriff Fenske: They all had beepers, all the equipment they needed. It was just unfortunate what happened.
Maggie: Weather conditions have also left experts concerned about the elevated risk of highway avalanches, a major threat to drivers. Crews here in Colorado have been working around the clock trying to clear roadways made impassable due to falling snow and warning drivers to stay off many roads entirely.
With forecasters predicting warmer temperatures in the week ahead, many fear this year’s avalanche season will only get worse.
Maggie Rulli, Channel One News.