Avalanche Formation

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Here in the midst of the Rocky Mountains, Montanans must be aware of avalanches and the destruction they can cause, but have you ever wondered why these natural, but powerful phenomena happen?

Typically when snow falls along a mountain slope, the new snow will form a bond, locking together with the already fallen flakes, making a sturdy snowpack surface.

But, if environmental factors like temperature, sunlight, winds or precipitation change, then new snow can have a very difficult time becoming adhesive or linked with the snow already present on the slope.

This in turn means a slick layer of snow will sit atop the sturdy snowpack, waiting for gravity, extra snowfall, or manmade activities like snowmobiling, skiing, or snowboarding to be a trigger point.

If any one of these triggers is pulled, then the top level of snow will slide down the slope causing havoc for anything or anybody in its path.

In order to prevent avalanche dangers, an avalanche risk scale from 1 to 5 has been built in the hopes of preventing harm to people.

Unfortunately, sometimes the warnings and barriers fail us as in the case of last week's Missoula avalanche on a slope that wasn't necessarily expected to be a danger to those involved.

And now you're a little bit more weather wise.


Story by AUSTIN WINFIELD, Beartooth NBC.

Sponsored by Collision Pro of Helena.
Copyright ©2014 Beartooth Communications Company. All Rights Reserved.


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