Avalanche warnings for Cooke City area

Friday, January 7, 2022

MISSOULA (AP) — Avalanche warnings are in place in western Montana and for the Cooke City area north of Yellowstone National Park because of heavy snow over the last several days and amid forecasts of more on Friday, plus strong winds and some rain.

In northwestern Montana, the avalanche danger was listed as high in the Whitefish Range, in the Flathead Range including a portion of Glacier National Park and in the Swan Range, the Flathead Avalanche Center said.

“Slabs of new and drifted snow will be thick and easily triggered by the weight of a person or snowmachine,” the warning said. “In isolated areas, avalanches may break in weak layers of old snow near the ground. Travel in avalanche terrain in not recommended.”

In west-central Montana, the avalanche danger was high near Lolo Pass, in the southern Mission mountains along with the Rattlesnake and southern and central Bitterroot mountains, the center said. All elevations will be impacted by heavy snow and increased hazards.

“The likelihood of avalanches will increase with continued wind, snowfall, rising temperatures and rain at lower elevations,” the West Central Montana Avalanche Center said.

The Gallatin National Forest Avalanche Center has also issued an avalanche warning for the wind-loaded slopes near Cooke City north of Yellowstone National Park. About 15 inches of snow has fallen since Thursday morning in the area where two Minnesota snowmobilers died in an avalanche on Dec. 27.

Strong winds created new snow drifts that were 2 to 4 feet (61 to 122 centimeters) deep and wind-loaded slopes were expected to experience avalanches, the Gallatin center said.

“If you get onto any steep slope, even one that isn’t wind-loaded, expect to trigger a slide beneath the new snow,” the warning states. “If you need added incentive to stay out of avalanche terrain, remember that there are weak layers lower in the snowpack that could break even deeper.”

The City of Missoula and its Office of Emergency Management said Thursday officials were “exercising caution” in issuing an urban avalanche warning for Mount Jumbo, closing the mountain to recreation. The closure also applies to private property.