KALISPELL — The Flathead Avalanche Center has issued a backcountry avalanche warning for parts of Flathead, Lake and Lincoln counties as dangerous conditions look to last throughout the week.
“Really just staying out of avalanche terrain altogether, for sure today, likely tomorrow and well see how the rest of the week pans out,” Flathead Avalanche Center Forecaster Cam Johnson told MTN News.
Avalanche danger reached dangerous levels in Northwest Montana on Monday as heavy, dense snow and widespread rain at lower elevations may lead to an increase in natural and human-triggered avalanches.
“By tomorrow morning we may see two-plus feet at upper elevations, just kind of depends on how long this precipitation stays with us,” said Johnson who added the heavy snow may overload the existing snow surface at higher elevations resulting in widespread areas of unstable snow.
“So, we’re expecting a lot of the avalanches to start about 5,000 feet but they have the potential to run down into the low elevation terrain, kind of in areas that you typically might not see avalanche debris in,” added Johnson.
Johnson said traveling in and below avalanche terrain is not recommended during these types of conditions, those who venture off into the backcountry are putting themselves and others at high risk.
“If the unfortunate event happens where an accident does occur the rescuers will be putting themselves at risk and it might even be that they might not accept the risk if it’s too high to come and perform a rescue, there are events where those types of things do happen,” said Johnson.
Johnson said avalanche conditions have been fairly mild compared to years past in Northwest Montana, although conditions can change rapidly in the month of March.
“For the most part we’ve had a lot of days where you can ski and ride and snowmobile in steep terrain, the next few days are definitely not those days,” added Johnson.
A full avalanche daily forecast is posted online at flatheadavalanche.org each morning at 7 a.m.