Avalanche risk looms for Pacific Northwest

Chris Martin has lived in Roslyn, Washington, for almost 15 years. Each winter, he keeps an eye on avalanches near the Cascade Mountain Range. 

“Snow avalanches are a possibility any time you’re in an area with snow above you,” Martin said.

 Northwest weather forces many into shelters

The avalanche threat near the Cascade Mountain Range extends from the North Cascade National Park all the way down in Oregon. Northwest Avalanche Center Specialist Katie Warren predicts avalanche risks one to two days ahead of time.  

“The next storm that rolls through the Pacific Northwest, we’ll probably see a new and different type of avalanche cycle,” Warren said.

Warren says the heavy snowfall this winter has led to bigger avalanches. They’ve also become more unpredictable. 

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“We saw avalanches in new paths, both on White Pass and Blewett Pass,” Warren said. “Areas that don’t typically close due to avalanche hazard.” 

On average, 27 people die from avalanches each winter in the U.S. Washington is near the top of the list of states with the most deaths over the past 10 years. 

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Martin is on his county’s search-and-rescue team. He completed mountain avalanche and safety training and feels everyone living close to the mountains should do the same. 

 “We like to be prepared and thinking about what’s above them all the time,” Martin said. 

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