Utah’s northern mountains can thank the weather occurrence of El Nino for this year’s snowy weather. KPCW’s Leslie Thatcher has more.
With even more snow forecast for this week, Utah is enjoying higher than average snow totals this winter. As News for Utah Meteorologist Devon Lucie told us Monday, we can thank El Nino.
El Nino is part of a routine climate pattern that forms due to a large area of warmer than normal ocean water. A strong El Nino typically results in heavier than normal rain along the west coast of the United States.
“El Nino actually went into effect. Now what you have to have are water temperatures off of the coast of South America being detected as being that El Nino Phenomena. That is has to go on for three months. It’s been going on. It’s happened for 3 months so now they say, officially we’re in an El Nino. But what that points out is our very active weather pattern that’s occurred. Thank you, El Nino.”
As storms have moved into northern Utah, there have been, at times, some ferocious winds with those storms – shutting down chairlifts and creating dangerous conditions in the back country.
On Saturday, a skier triggered a slide in the Guardsman’s Pass area. Utah Avalanche Forecaster Trent Meisenheimer visited the site on Sunday. The skier he says was the 4th one on the slope that day.
“Over the weekend,” Meisenheimer said, “we had a number of avalanches triggered. And actually, just around the corner there in Guardsman Pass we had a skier hit like a jump and when he landed into the slope, it avalanched two to three feet deep and about 200 feet wide and the skier was taken down the slope and he was fully buried - everything but just a ski tip sticking out. They were able to dig him out ok – no injuries – and he was not harmed so that’s really good news. And that just brings us to a really great point - if you are going to travel in the backcountry, beacon shovel, probe – those are the three minimum pieces of gear that you need at all times.”
Another skier-triggered avalanche happened Saturday off Clayton’s Peak – also near Guardsman’s Pass on a northeast aspect. The slide was about 300 feet wide and up to 3 feet deep.
“And most of these avalanches are happening within the new snow,” said Meisenheimer. So, basically the winds have whipped up the new snow into what we called wind slab avalanches or wind-drifted snow. And that’s really our main concern out there. And these wind slabs and drifts are just scattered through the terrain so it’s hard to say this slope is good and this one is bad. It’s realty just everything there’s a chance of that wind-blown snow around all aspects and elevations.”
Be sure to check the back country conditions at www.utahavalanchecenter.org and remember to always have a beacon, shovel, and probe on you at all times and know how to use them.