BILLINGS – A high avalanche warning has been issued for four areas in southwest Montana following a snowstorm that brought more than a foot of snow to the region.
The Gallatin National Forest Avalanche Center sounded the alarm early Tuesday morning for the Southern Madison and Southern Gallatin ranges, the Lionhead area near West Yellowstone and the mountains around Cooke City. The center has rated the avalanche danger as high on all slopes in those areas.
The dense snow fell onto a “weak and unstable snowpack” that built up during extremely cold temperatures in late November. Strong winds this weekend created slabs of snow on leeward slopes, which are also susceptible to collapsing.
“Natural and human-triggered slides are likely,” wrote the center’s Doug Chabot in the advisory posted online and sent out to subscribers via email. “Avalanche terrain and avalanche runout zones should be avoided.”
Last winter two people were killed in avalanches in southwest Montana, one in Cooke City and one near Big Sky. Already this fall two hunters were injured when an avalanche swept them down a slope in the Bridger Mountains near Bozeman in early November.
The recent storm brought 10 to 12 inches of dense snow to the mountains around Cooke City, West Yellowstone and Carrot Basin, according to the center. Big Sky received 5 inches. Along with the snow came strong winds out of the southwest that were averaging 20-30 mph with a gust of 67 mph recorded in the Hyalite region south of Bozeman.
“Another pulse of snow is forecasted Wednesday and Thursday,” Chabot wrote.