MISSOULA – This winter the threat of another avalanche in Missoula is heightened due to the perfect combination of conditions.
Avalanches kill an average of 42 people each year in North America, and hundreds more are injured.
Those deaths hit close to home.
In 1993 a boy was killed in a slide on the east side of Mount Jumbo, more recently a Missoula woman died in 2014 after an avalanche buried her in her home.
On Tuesday, the City of Missoula and the West Central Avalanche Foundation held a press conference to answer questions about the changing conditions.
Those conditions were scaled down from “Considerable” danger to “Low” due to warm temperatures in the Missoula area, increasing the stability of the snow.
But Travis Craft with the West Central Montana Avalanche Center reminds us that a slide is still possible if you are in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Red flags that would bump that danger back up are: a rain on snow event in higher elevation or another dump of about 8 to 10 inches of snow with heavy winds.
Craft adds they are being proactive with the situation, and have learned from past disasters.
“We remember from 2014, the main cause of that was an artificial trigger,” Craft said. “It was a snowboarder on the top that triggered the avalanche that did cause the fatality and buried four people. So by limiting those triggers and respecting those closures were being proactive to the cause of 2014.”
The avalanche danger continues to trend downward and is rated at low. But experts say low danger does NOT mean no danger.
They remind residents to respect the Mount Jumbo closure.