Missoula City and County Join to Monitor Urban Avalanche Risk
Missoula, MT (KGVO-AM News) - After the deadly urban avalanche of 2014, Missoula City and County governments have joined together to name February as ‘Missoula Urban Avalanche Awareness Month’.
On the KGVO City Talk segment of Talk Back on Friday, the live in-studio guests were Adriane Beck, Director of the Missoula County Office of Emergency Management and Parks and Recreation Conservation Lands Program Manager Jeff Gicklhorn, along with City of Missoula Communications Director Ginny Merriam.
Were You Living in Missoula in 2014 during the Urban Avalanche?
Beck led off the conversation with a look back at the deadly urban avalanche of 2014.
“In 2014, in the month of February, we had a storm come through and it was a weather pattern that is not uncommon to January and February where we have these northerly systems that come in from Canada,” began Beck. “They have these east winds and that certainly was a factor in 2014, however, we also had tremendous precipitation that came with that storm.”
Beck then described the factors that combined to trigger the urban avalanche.
“What that wind did was that it created a very large snow slab up on the top of Mount Jumbo,” she said. “It was very cold that day, but people were out recreating anyway and unfortunately a snowboarder disregarded the ‘No Trespassing’ sign on Mount Jumbo, and Jeff will describe why that's in place, and triggered an avalanche. Unfortunately, for the first time that we know of an avalanche reached the valley floor and it tragically resulted in a fatality along with significant property damage.”
Hundreds of Volunteers Showed up to Help, Creating its Own Danger
Beck said the entire community responded to the snowed-in area to assist in the emergency, which created its own dangers.
“Since 2014, we don't want to repeat that, obviously,” she said. “The fire department, the police department, and as you indicated numerous volunteers descended on the scene. It was a pretty unsafe situation, and I think that from that experience, we have outlined a way to do that better should it happen again.”
Beck said she and her office have done everything possible to prepare for another such event, by proactively monitoring the area to mitigate the risk of another urban avalanche.
Be Ready for any Emergency by Signing up for Smart 911
“Since 2014, and through our continued analysis of that event, the hillside itself has shown us that it could happen again,” she said. “It absolutely could, and we have those conditions that are present, so we're much more proactive in monitoring that hillside during the winter months, and we are much more proactive in trying to enforce the closure so that we not only are protecting everything that we’ve just been talking about, but also trying to minimize that risk of a human triggered avalanche.”
Beck added that signing up for emergency alerts through Smart 911 is the best way to be proactive in case of another urban avalanche. Click here to sign up.
Click here to see Frequently Asked Questions about Urban Avalanche Awareness.