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Avalanche danger elevated

Wed., Feb. 21, 2007

Several days of heavy snowfall in the mountains of North Idaho have raised the avalanche danger.

The Idaho Panhandle Avalanche Center issued a special advisory Tuesday morning saying the danger had increased since Friday morning, when the hazard was rated as moderate. At least two feet of new snow fell in higher elevations over the weekend and Monday.

The advisory is “due to the severity of the weather conditions we’re experiencing now and possibly throughout the week,” said Kevin Davis, director of the Sandpoint-based avalanche center.

Snowmobilers, backcountry skiers, snowshoers and others who venture into the high country need to be wary of snowpack conditions, Davis said.

Hazardous areas include the St. Regis Basin near Mullan and the Cabinet and Selkirk mountains in the north Panhandle, he said.

Five snowmobilers and one skier died in avalanches over the weekend in Utah, Montana and Idaho.

Avalanche danger grows this time of year because of the deep snowpack and the varied layers of snow, including heavy, wet snow on light, fluffy snow. Also, rocks, trees and stumps that can help anchor the snowpack are buried under several feet, Davis explained. High winds also build up snow on ridges, increasing the risk of an avalanche.

Heavy snow fell above 3,500 feet through Tuesday afternoon, the National Weather Service said. Silver Mountain, Lookout Pass and Schweitzer ski areas reported a foot or more of new snow since Monday morning.

“It’s mostly the high mountains that got creamed,” said Greg Koch, a forecaster with the weather service in Spokane. “And it’s still snowing pretty hard.”

Crews will return to the mountains Thursday to dig pits in the snowpack and evaluate the strength of the snow layers. A new avalanche hazard rating will be issued Friday morning.


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