Big risk in the Montana backcountry; dangerous avalanche threat
Heavy snow, high winds, and fluctuating temperatures have avalanche forecasters warning this is a risky time to be in the backcountry of Western Montana.
Although we haven't seen much snow accumulate in the valleys, some of the mountain locations in West Central Montana have been buried under an additional 3 feet of new snow in the past couple of days. Forecasters with the center say Seeley has received up to 3 feet of snow, with 2 feet in the Rattlesnake, and 1 to 2 feet of snow in the Bitterroot Mountains.
Forecasters with the West Central Montana Avalanche Center issued an avalanche warning Monday morning saying all that new snow has created some "dangerous" conditions. And they're expecting that danger to continue to increase as more new snow pushes into the Northern Rockies through Monday evening into Tuesday.
Checks on conditions around the forecasters' usual locations showed a "sensitive storm slab exists on all slopes", at both the mid and upper elevations. They say the strong winds we've seen over the weekend have built wind slabs on multiple aspects slows, and there's a risk for wet snow avalanches below the line where snow is transitioning into the rain. There's still a "considerable" risk of slides at lower elevations.
The current forecast will expire Tuesday morning, but forecasters recommend people stay out of avalanche terrain today.
The Flathead Avalanche Center has also issued avalanche warnings for the Swan Range, the Flathead Range, and Glacier National Park, with an avalanche watch posted for the Whitefish Range. As to the south, forecasters say "new snow and powerful winds" have created wide areas of unstable snow, and human-triggered slides could be large enough to "bury, injure and kill someone."
READ MORE: Missoula officials monitor risk for urban avalanche