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Avalanches....they do happen in Maine

Published: Feb. 23, 2021 at 9:22 AM EST
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PRESQUE ISLE, Maine (WAGM) -Avalanches...something we don’t think about often in Maine, but they do happen here.  Megan Cole spoke with a ranger from Baxter State Park on how often avalanches occur and how you can stay safe.

When you hear about Avalanches, you may not immediately think of them happening in Maine, but they do.  This one happened in Baxter State Park during the 2019/2020 season.  And according to District Ranger Rob Tice, they happen more often in our state than you might think.

“Well most of the avalanches that occur in the park are not witnessed so a lot of them happen later in the season when we have rangers but its not uncommon in the spring time to sometimes see from anywhere up to a dozen in a day.”

Louise Fode is the warning coordination meteorologist for NWS in Caribou and says that in order for an avalanche to happen, there have to be some underlying factors such as a destabilized snowpack.

“Something that frequently leads to avalanches is when you have a big storm with a lot of rain or a lot of snow.  That initial snowfall or rainfall will destabilize the snowpack often for several days after the event but another thing we look for are high winds so winds will move the snowpack around and cause some areas more unstable than others.”

Fode says that there are ways to tell if you’re in an area where an avalanche could happen.

“The very first thing I would say is if you notice that there are recent avalanches in the area that’s a pretty big red flag right there.  But secondly if you see cracking in the snowpack or maybe some areas that have collapsed a little bit that’s another red flag.  If you’re walking or riding and you hear kind of Whumpfing sounds or even like a hollow drum like sound in the snowpack, that’s an indicator that there’s some weak spots below.”

Tice says that if find yourself in a situation where the snow is cracking, go back where you came from.

“You know every situation is a little bit different but probably your best bet would be go back the way that you came because that did not slide and if you keep going forward you may get yourself into terrain that will slide.”

Fode says that if you need any additional information on avalanches, visit avalanche.org.

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