Backcountry Avalanche danger increases thanks to latest snowstorm

John Crawford
01/10/2020

Heavy snow continues to fall across much of our area today, and Environment Canada is warning motorists to be careful on the highways.

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Meteorologist Doug Lundquist says as of 11am, the Terrace area had already received nearly 25 centimetres of new snow since Thursday.

 "It's going to snow through the rest of today and much of tonight so we could get another 10 to 15 centimetres on top of that, so a really decent snowfall, and then some more bad news -- it looks like the Arctic front is coming through Saturday night and we're getting into a cold period but sunny for most of next week; same sort of storm is affecting the Bulkley Valley, with periods of snow for today and tonight -- probably round about 12 centimetres in the Smithers area for example, and we could easily get another 8 to 15 centimetres throughout the region there before it tapers off overnight tonight or early tomorrow," he said.

Lundquist says the Arctic front will then move in, plunging overnight temperatures in the Smithers area down to the minus 30 degree range on Sunday and Monday.

The weather forced school bus cancellations this morning in both the Coast Mountains School District and in the Burns Lake and Granisle areas, although the schools were open.

Centennial Christian School in Terrace was closed today. 

Some Public Transit runs in outlying areas around Terrace were also suspended until further notice.

The snowstorm is having the predictable impact on the backcountry avalanche hazard.

Avalanche Canada says cool temperatures and heavy precipitation are bringing lots of low density snow to the region.

And Avalanche forecaster Colin Garritty predicts the danger will increase as we head into the weekend for both the Coastal and Inland zones of the northwest.

"The initial concern with the new snow is storm slabs forming, more likely this will be happening in wind-effected areas where that wind is redistributing that new snow into stiffer slabs; but in areas where sufficient low-density snow accumulates, we can have loose, dry avalanches becoming a concern as well and all aspects are probably going to be a concern as the winds will be shifting from a southerly or southwest direction to a northeasterly direction so kind of forming wind slabs all around the upper elevations," he warned. 

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[Colin Garritty, Avalanche Canada]

He says there are additional concerns in the Smithers area, where a weak layer of hoarfrost has been observed buried deeply in the snowpack.

Garritty recommends conservative terrain selection during these conditions.

The expected Arctic front will increase the danger in the backcountry.

The Avalanche Danger rating is currently "Considerable" for the Northwest Inland Zone, and "Considerable" to "High" for the Coastal Zone.

 

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