Because of heavy rains, high freezing levels and warm temperatures, the danger rating for avalanches on Vancouver Island is rated high.
Avalanche Canada noted new snow followed by heavy rain is Tuesday’s (Nov.30) recipe for rapidly changing and dangerous avalanche conditions. In a warning issued around 4 p.m. Nov. 29, the organization rated avalanche conditions in the alpine four (out of five) or high.
A high rating indicates very dangerous avalanche conditions and travel in avalanche terrain is not recommended. Natural avalanches are like and human-triggered avalanches are very likely.
New snow followed by a deluge of rain will breathe new life into wet loose avalanche problems Tuesday, they added in the notice.
The more new snow accumulated before the transition to rain occurs, the greater the danger will be. Forecast weather suggests a storm slab problem could form with new snow. Any fresh accumulations will shed from steep slopes increasingly easily as temperatures rise.
Colin Garrity, a forecaster and avalanche field technician for Avalanche Canada said the danger rating on the Island is for areas of mountainous terrain.
“As the freezing level rises to 3,000m, combined with rain and the dry snowfall is a recipe for avalanches. With the rain, anywhere the snow is saturated with water, it’s like a Slurpee and you get a wet loose avalanche, which is like a river of mush flowing down the mountainside.”
While Garrity noted the weather is not the best for those looking to spend time on the mountains, weather conditions are dangerous and can change rapidly, particularly on the Island.
“Once we see cooling and freezing levels drop, the surface snowpack can freeze into a solid piece of concrete and avalanches are almost impossible, but the sliding conditions increase.”
He added as opening day on Mount Washington approaches (Dec. 10), skiers looking to head to the mountain should check conditions. For the first time, Avalanche Canada will be producing a daily avalanche forecast for Vancouver Island.
As of noon Nov. 30, temperatures at Mount Washington are 1 C, with five centimetres of snow reported to have fallen within the last 24 hours.
For more information on avalanches and the latest conditions, visit avalanche.ca/map/forecasts/vancouver-island.