What is it?
An avalanche can be a truly terrifying disaster. Avalanches occur when the load of snow on a slope becomes too great and through the force of gravity the snow moves downhill. Depending upon the size and speed of the avalanche, these can be deadly natural events.
Check out these two links at the University of Wyoming to see an avalanche in action:
What are the risk factors?
There are some conditions that can make avalanches more likely:
There are many other factors that can increase the chances of an avalanche. Check the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) for more information.
What should I do?
First, if you are going to go into the backcountry, take an avalanche awareness course. You must
have and know how to use a tranceiver, avalanche probe, and shovel. If someone is caught in an avalanche, seconds count and you can't depend on a quick response from emergency services if you are in the backcountry. Contact Teton County Search and Rescue
or your local backcountry ski retailer for more information.
Know before you go! This goes for any activity or travel in avalanche prone areas. One way to get vital avalanche information is through the Bridger-Teton National Forest Backcountry Avalanche Hazard & Weather Forecast. This will provide you with detailed forecast information on avalanche hazards in the Teton County and Western Wyoming areas. NOAA Weather / All-Hazards Radio just recently began broadcasting avalanche warnings on behalf of the Bridger-Teton National Forest Avalanche Center. If you have a NOAA Weather Radio with an alert function, the radio will tone out whenever an avalanche warning is issued by the Bridger-Teton National Forest Avalanche Center.
Avalanche response and recovery efforts are beyond the scope of this website. For further information, check the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) for information on all aspects of avalanches.
As for any disaster, have a plan and preparedness kit ready for your family. If you don't have a family emergency plan and a 72 hour kit, click here to get started.
What are the impacts?
Most importantly there is the potential loss of life or risk of serious injury associated with avalanches. Secondary to that:
- Impeded travel.
Avalanches can shut down major highways into and out of Teton County such as Highway 22 (Teton Pass), South Highway 89 (Rafter J area, Snake River Canyon), and Highway 191 (Hoback Canyon). Check Wyoming Department of Transportation's road condition page to see if your travel routes are closed due to avalanches or avalanche control.
- Economic losses.
If employees are unable to come into work due to highways being shut down, businesses will not be able to operate at capacity. Additionally, closed roads will prevent people from coming to Teton County to recreate and vacation.
- Increased strain on emergency services.
Increased amounts of people in the backcountry means more search and rescue callouts. With the time and effort required for each rescue, simultaneous requests for help can be a significant strain on local resources.
If roadways are closed due to avalanches, this not only makes it difficult or impossible for emergency services such as law enforcement or EMS to respond to affected areas, but will also make it difficult for responders to report for their shifts.