Roundup: Avalanches claim 25 lives in U.S. this winter

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LOS ANGELES, Feb. 17 (Xinhua) — A total of 25 peoples had been killed in avalanches in the United States this winter as of Wednesday, according to Avalanche.org, a leading website providing real-time information on avalanche.

The latest data released by the website co-launched by the the American Avalanche Association (A3) and the U.S. Forest Service National Avalanche Center (NAC), 17 fatal avalanches occurred since Dec. 18, and all but one were in the West.

Utah saw the deadliest avalanche in the country this year, which is also the state’s deadliest accident in about 30 years, on Feb. 6 when four backcountry skiers in their 20s died and another four dug themselves out of a 1,000-foot slide in the Wasatch Range east of Salt Lake City.

This Sunday, across the Rockies on Valentine’s Day, avalanches killed three people in three separate incidents.

Just before noon on Sunday, an avalanche in Beehive Basin, near Big Sky, Montana, swept two splitboarders away and partially buried one, a 45-year-old veteran teacher, who was injured as snow pushed him through trees and died in hospital.

At around 9:30 a.m. local time on Sunday, a solo backcountry snowboarder was buried and killed by an avalanche on Pat’s Knob, near Mount Trelease, almost 60 miles west of Denver, capital city of Colorado.

“Searcher and Rescue personnel found the tourer buried with a deployed avalanche airbag. Part of the airbag was visible in the avalanche debris, but the tourer’s head was covered (partial burial-critical).” the Colorado Avalanche Information Center (CAIC) wrote in a news release.

On the same day, a snowmobiler was caught and killed in an avalanche west of Rollins Pass, 110 kilometers west of Denver, CAIC said, there was no exact time when the accident occurred and rescue crews only found the victim buried underneath his sled after the avalanche stopped.

CAIC warned early Sunday to take “extra caution,” saying “avalanche conditions are unusual. normal routes and safety habits may not keep you out of danger.”

Researchers said that more avalanches happened across the West and in eastern Idaho and western Wyoming this winter, because backcountry slopes received several feet of new snow recently that piled up onto a poor foundation of snow made rotten by long stretches of dry periods during December and January.

Heavy snowfall and drifting from the ongoing winter storm across the state “will continue to overload an exceptionally weak snowpack,” resulting in “very dangerous avalanche conditions,” according to the Utah Avalanche Center (UAV).

The center issued a news release on Monday, warning the chance of avalanches in the state was currently high, and will “likely rise to extreme in some areas,” starting Monday afternoon through Wednesday, and potentially into Thursday.

“Extreme” is the highest level of avalanche danger, meaning they’re “certain to occur” and when they do they would be “fast-moving, far-running and very destructive,” the UAV said, adding under this situation, avalanches could reach or occur in places that are not normally affected by the accidents. Enditem

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