High winds blast the county | SummitDaily.com

High winds blast the county

SUMMIT COUNTY – Winds that exceeded speeds of 80 mph Wednesday night contributed to avalanche danger in the backcountry, forecasters with the Colorado Avalanche Information Center (CAIC) reported Thursday.

Currently, there is an avalanche warning in the northern mountains, including those in Summit County. Avalanche danger is rated “high,” meaning natural and human-triggered slides are likely.

CAIC forecasters reported six natural slides and one human-triggered slide in Summit County Thursday.

“We’re recommending people be very conservative and cautious in all parts of the Colorado mountains,” said CAIC director Knox Williams. “It’s probably best to wait this one out for a few days until blowing snow has stopped and warming temperatures have had a chance to add a little stability to the widespread slab conditions.”

Williams said rescuers in Chaffee County found the body of a snowmobiler who was caught in a slide Wednesday afternoon near Hancock Pass about 10 miles north of Monarch Ski Area. His death is the third avalanche-related death in the state this season, and the 22nd for the nation.

According to Knox, the 700-foot-wide slide released on a north-facing slope and fell 1,100 feet.

Snowmobilers were riding along a road that ascends the north side of Hancock Pass when the slide released. Officials said it’s possible the first two snowmobiles triggered the slide and escaped. Rescuers said the victim, whose body was found in shallow snow, died of trauma from being swept through the trees.

Weather forecasters said the high winds blasting the county should subside somewhat by Friday, to 15 to 25 mph and gusts of 50 mph above timberline.

Jane Stebbins can be reached at (970) 668-3998 ext. 228 or jstebbins@summitdaily.com.

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