ALERT: Avalanche danger remains high across Colorado’s high country

State

STATEWIDE — Heavy snowstorms have caused many avalanches across Colorado’s mountains and avalanche forecasters warn we could see many more in coming days.

The Colorado State Avalanche Information Center (CAIC) said the number of avalanches has been climbing this winter. Since Christmas Eve, Mike Cooperstein said CAIC has received over 300 avalanche reports.

“All of the recent snow since before Christmas is causing a pretty fragile snowpack to reach its tipping point really,” Cooperstein said.

Nearly all of the Colorado high country was under “considerable” avalanche danger Tuesday, with only the Sangre de Cristo and Culebra mountain ranges on the eastern side of the San Luis Valley at a lower “moderate” level.

Cooperstein said conditions are likely to get worse by the end of the week, with even more snowstorms in the forecast.

“As long as we keep getting these big loading events, big snowstorms, lots of wind we’ll continue to have dangerous avalanche conditions,” Cooperstein said.

CAIC works with the Colorado Department of Transportation to help monitor and control avalanche paths above Colorado highways. Helping to prevent avalanches from impacting drivers and passengers down below.

“We are looking at starting zones of avalanche paths watching how much it’s loading. Looking at snowfall numbers looking at the snowpack and then recommending mitigation or recommending closures based off of those conditions,” Cooperstein said.

When there is a high risk of avalanche danger, CDOT will close highways at the location of the avalanche path to conduct avalanche control.

CDOT advises drivers who encounter an avalanche or powder cloud to follow the following instructions:

  • Reduce speeds
  • Pullover to the shoulder of the highway if possible
  • Turn off your vehicle
  • Remain in your car
  • Call 911 and ask for help

CAIC’s recommendation when avalanche danger is high is to stay up to date on road conditions and forecasts and to stay out of Colorado’s back countries.

“Across most of the mountains in Colorado we are urging people to stay out of avalanche terrain. So those are steep slopes, steeper than about 30 degrees and really the message for most zones is to stay away from avalanche terrain,” Cooperstein said.

For more information on avalanche warnings visit avalanche.state.co.us and for road conditions visit cotrip.org.

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