Wasatch Cache National Forest

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Avalanche advisory

Tuesday,  FEBRUARY 26, 2002  7:30 AM

 

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Good morning, this is Drew Hardesty with the Forest Service Utah Avalanche Center with your backcountry avalanche and mountain weather advisory.  Today is Tuesday, February 26, 2002, and it’s 7:30 a.m.

 

Current Conditions:

The winds continued to average in the 30’s and 40’s last night, but have dropped to the teens and mid-twenties since early this morning.  It is still bitter cold in the mountains:  under clear skies, early morning temperatures dipped to -9, but have currently warmed to 0 degrees at both nine and eleven thousand feet.  Snow surface conditions are quite variable, with wind damage found on upper elevation exposed areas, but you can still find soft snow in the more protected areas.   

 

Avalanche Conditions:

The strong westerly winds from the past two days and new snow from Sunday into Monday morning resulted in quite a bit of avalanche activity along the Park City Ridgeline and in the upper Tri-Canyon area.  Some natural activity was reported from yesterday in Wolverine cirque on a couple steep northeast facing, newly windloaded chutes.  The most significant natural there was up to 2’ deep.  Other new wind drifts up to 1’-2’ deep were triggered from slope cuts and cornice drops on steep north through east facing slopes, with some reactive down off the ridgelines as well.  Also yesterday, a lone skier in the lower Mineral Fork drainage triggered a hard slab avalanche on an east facing slope at around 8000’.  It reportedly stepped down in the old weak faceted snow below the old crust.  After bouncing into a tree, he managed to get out and off to the side but not before losing some gear.  Photos of the slide are here and here.   Additional information on these and the full list of reported activity will be updated on the 364-1591 line by about 10 this morning. 

 

Today, while probably more stubborn, wind drifts will still be possible to trigger on steep mid and upper elevation slopes.  The strong winds resulted in unusual loading patterns – drifts will be found farther off the ridgelines than expected and around the lee of micro-terrain features.  All it takes is a slight drop in pitch for loading to occur.  Remember that shooting cracks and audible “whumphs” are immediate signs of instability.

 

An avalanche accident occurred in the Western Uintas in the upper Currant Creek drainage east of Heber on Saturday, where a snowmachiner triggered the slide that buried him.  As of yesterday, he was still in critical condition.  Also in the same area on Sunday, a snowmachiner triggered a 4’ deep avalanche after launching over a sizeable cliff.  The rider was lucky to be able to swim out of the sliding snow on the way down.

 

Bottom Line: 

The danger of human triggered avalanches is MODERATE on slopes steeper than about 35 degrees with recent deposits of wind drifted snow.  Human triggered avalanches will be possible.  There remains a distinct possibility that any new avalanche may step down into older weak faceted snow.  Suspect areas for this would be upper elevation steep rocky chutes, areas that have slid earlier in the year, or areas that have a thinner snowpack, probably less than 3’. 

                                                                                                                      

(Provo Area Mountains and Western Uinta Mountains)

These areas have had a thin snowpack most of the winter, and the sugary weak snow is more widespread.  The danger of human triggered avalanches is more widespread in the Provo and Western Uinta Mountains, especially where wind loaded. 

 

(Ogden Area Mountains)

Same as Salt Lake Area Mountains

 

Mountain Weather:

Mostly sunny today with generally light to moderate northwest winds.  8000’ highs will be near 25 degrees with 10,000’ temperatures in the mid-teens.  A weak system moving to our north will likely just produce some clouds and a few flurries tonight and early tomorrow, clearing by the afternoon.  Another weak storm follows for Thursday afternoon that looks like it might bring just a couple inches.  High pressure will build for the weekend and into early next week.

 

General Information:

To report backcountry snow and avalanche conditions, especially if you observe or trigger an avalanche, you can leave a message at (801) 524-5304 or 1-800-662-4140.  Or you can e-mail an observation to [email protected] .org, or you can fax an observation to 801-524-6301.

 

The Wasatch Powderbird Guides will be flying one ship in the American Fork drainage, with a possible homerun out White Pine, with another ship in Silver, Day’s, Cardiff and Mineral today.

 

For more detailed mountain weather and avalanche information, your can call 801-364-1591, which we’ll try to have updated by around noon each day.

 

The information in this advisory is from the U.S. Forest Service, which is solely responsible for its content.  This advisory describes general avalanche conditions and local variations always occur. 

 

Ethan Greene will update this advisory by 7:30 tomorrow morning.

Thanks for calling!

________________________________________________________________________

  

For more detailed weather information go to our Mountain Weather Advisory

National Weather Service - Salt Lake City - Snow.

For an explanation of avalanche danger ratings:

http://www.avalanche.org/usdanger.htm