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'Considerable Danger' For Avalanches Around Mount Washington Amid Winter Storm

The Mount Washington Avalanche Center's "Avalanche Danger Scale."

The Mount Washington Avalanche Center says there will be “considerable danger” for avalanches in the areas around the mountain as today’s winter storm moves in.

"Avalanche danger will rapidly increase through the afternoon and evening hours," the advisory reads. "Travel in avalanche terrain near and after dark is not recommended."

Frank Carus, a snow ranger with the U.S. Forest Service, says avalanches are not out of the ordinary this time of year — but the severity of the approaching storm makes the risk even higher than normal.

“We’ve had four avalanche cycles already this year, not to be confused with four avalanches. We've had four periods of weather with avalanche conditions, and that’s just in December," Carus says. "Avalanche activity is not at all unusual, we’ll have multiple cycles through the winter months. It’s a particularly large snow event, so we’re anticipating larger than normal avalanches or many avalanches.” 

Those who plan to be in the area under the avalanche advisory should stay away from steep slopes and gulleys, Carus says, especially in the back country. Carus also cautioned against trying to hike in today’s conditions, especially if you're not trained to handle extreme winter conditions.

“Anyone planning a presidential range traverse or going on a winter summit attempt should consider the avalanche forecast and just be careful when they’re approaching any steep slopes with lots of snow,” Carus says.  "If you’re not a very experienced winter mountaineer, I think this weather event would be very challenging for you, and I think history has shown people sometimes underestimate their abilities to handle a big snowstorm and travel in whiteout conditions when navigation is challenging."

More details on the avalanche advisory and daily updates about avalanche conditions around Mount Washington can be found on the Mount Washington Avalanche Center’s website.

Casey is a Senior News Editor for NHPR. You can contact her with questions or feedback at cmcdermott@nhpr.org.
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