The Ever Present Danger of an Avalanche in Unexpected Places.
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The Ever Present Danger of an Avalanche in Unexpected Places.

This is about the geological hazards created by an avalanche.

In the past winter many areas of the world have received more snow than they have in the past century creating the danger of avalanches in some of the most unexpected places. Most people equate an avalanche with high-steep mountains in most years that is right, but this winter we have received far more snow then has fallen in almost a century making just the right kind of conditions so when that snow starts to melt it creates just the right kind of conditions for an avalanche to occur on normally gentle slopes.

The last winter that approached the amount of snow this fall in the Northeast United States and many other places of the world was 1995. At the end of January that year we had a sudden thaw where the temperatures well above 60° for two or three days. When this thought occurred there was about 4 feet of snow on the ground that became sodden with water, and then it froze. Somewhere near the bottom of the snowpack a layer of sugary snow was created that had very little structural strength creating just the right conditions for an avalanche.

Next to a state highway in New Hartford, Connecticut a block of snow or roughly 1/4 of a mile wide and deep became mobile this vast layer Of snow came sliding down a field having a slope of less than 15°. Although we never actually measured the pitch of the slope it was probably closer to 6°. If we had been less than 100 feet further up the highway we would've been caught in the avalanche. This thing happened in the blink of an eye, and although two cars were caught on the edge of the avalanche fortunately no one was hurt. This mass of snow did however completely cover the road to a depth of about 12 feet effectively closing the highway in both directions.

This winter there is even more snow on the ground than there was in 1995, and according to the weather forecast we are going to receive some heavy rains on our snow pack creating the conditions required for another group of avalanches in the Appalachian Mountains.

Avalanches are not confined to just open fields or mountains some of the most devastating ones can actually occur by snow sliding off your roof, and crashing down around your house. Once again these avalanches can occur in the blink of an eye requiring that you become extremely vigilant as you approach your house if there is a heavy snow pack on the roof.

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