MISSOULA – An Urban Avalanche Warning issued in Missoula on Thursday has shut down Mount Jumbo because the snow isn’t stable.
It’s a warning that comes five years to the very day an avalanche roared into a Rattlesnake neighborhood, burying three and killing one.
Now, with the weather conditions similar to what we saw on that fateful day, the city is sounding the alarm.
The signs are obvious along the entrance to the Rattlesnake and at the trailheads — stay off Mount Jumbo. It’s not safe.
Forecasters from the West Central Avalanche center were up on the mountain Thursday assessing the snowpack, and what they discovered has them concerned.
“We’re seeing dangerous avalanche conditions and a snowpack that we see nowhere else in our advisory area,” said avalanche forecaster Travis Craft.
There was already a snow slide on Thursday that was triggered by an elk. The avalanche was 3½ feet deep, 700 feet long and 75 feet wide.
Five years ago it was a snowboarder who triggered a deadly avalanche that slammed into a Rattlesnake neighborhood, burying three and killing one.
Mount Jumbo is steep — and this warning is real.
There were many lessons to be learned after the 2014 avalanche that slammed into a Rattlesnake neighborhood off Mount Jumbo.
Right now the signs are obvious. No one is allowed out on the mountain for now. City officials city say it’s going to take a community effort to make sure everyone stays safe until conditions get better.
Missoula City Fire Chief Jeff Brandt says unlike preparing for a wildfire, anticipating an avalanche is a lot different.
“We don’t have a solid platform to tell you how do you prepare yourself as best with a snow situation above your home so we’re advising you to stay alert and we’ll do our best to communicate changing weather conditions,” Brandt said.
With urban avalanches the new normal, Missoula search and rescue are trained for such an event because — they have to.
Joe Blattner/Missoula Search and Rescue Chief
“After the 2014 avalanche, we realized the considerations for an urban avalanche are much much different than what we see in a backcountry setting,” Missoula Search and Rescue Chief Joe Blattner explained.
“We partnered with the Missoula Fire Department and a number of other agencies to get specialized training. Some of the considerations include downed power lines, gas lines, debris, building materials. Things you don’t normally deal with in a backcountry setting,” he continued.
Law enforcement plans on patrolling the base of Mount Jumbo in the coming days to watch for trespassers, while also hoping everyone is vigilant and abides by the Urban Avalanche Warning.
Watch Thursday’s full press conference below: