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Special avalanche warning issued for Western Canada

Rising temperatures can destabilize the snowpack in alpine regions, according to Avalanche Canada
An image of deep, persistent slab avalanches that occurred over this past winter in the Selkirk Mountains. Avalanche Canada photo.

A special public avalanche warning has been issued for mountainous regions across Western Canada, as rising temperatures are expected to destabilize the snowpack, according to Avalanche Canada.

The sudden transition from cool, wintry conditions in the alpine to warm temperatures can create dangerous avalanche conditions, which could set off large avalanches that could potentially run to valley bottoms.

READ: Considerable avalanche danger remains as temperatures begin to rise

“Dangerous avalanche conditions exist for all mountainous regions in western Canada and the hazard increases with each day of warm air,” said Mike Conlan, a senior avalanche forecaster with Avalanche Canada. “Regions with persistent or deep persistent slab avalanche problems will be especially problematic, with avalanches potentially involving the full depth of the snowpack.”

“Warming can also initiate large and destructive cornice falls. Cornices can be destructive by themselves but also act as a trigger for destructive deep persistent avalanches.”

The warning, in effect until Monday, May 1, covers mountainous areas on Vancouver Island, central and southern interior and the Kananaskis area running along the BC-Alberta border.

Avalanche Canada is encouraging all backcountry users, from hikers to skiers and snowmobilers to be cautious and leave a wide margin for error, while sticking to low angle terrain.

“We cannot stress the importance of this avalanche warning enough,” said Bowinn Ma, BC Minister of Emergency Management and Climate Readiness. “I urge everyone considering heading into the backcountry to take seriously the advice of Avalanche Canada. Sadly, fourteen people have lost their lives to avalanches in B.C. this year—many of whom were extremely experienced.

“Everyone needs to exercise extreme caution and make good decisions during this Special Public Avalanche Warning to keep themselves and our incredible search and rescue volunteers safe.”

READ: 2 dead in avalanche triggered near Golden

Anyone recreating in the backcountry over the next few days should include essential rescue gear in their kit, such as a transceiver, probe and shovel, and have the necessary training to use those items.

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Trevor Crawley

About the Author: Trevor Crawley

Trevor Crawley has been a reporter with the Cranbrook Townsman and Black Press in various roles since 2011.
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