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Avalanche center warns canyon residents of 'roofalanches’

By Sean Moody, KSL TV | Posted - Mar. 6, 2019 at 10:17 p.m.

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LITTLE COTTONWOOD CANYON — The Utah Avalanche Center warned people Wednesday to be cautious around cabins with steep, snow-covered roofs.

Utah Avalanche Center avalanche forecaster Craig Gordon said warmer temperatures moving through the area can contribute to “roofalanches.”

“We’re feeling pretty safe and cozy inside. We’re not thinking about walking out the door and getting slammed by an avalanche crashing off of our roofs,” Gordon said.

Rooftop avalanches happen when warmer temperatures combine with heat from inside cabins to start melting the bottom layer of snow.

When that bottom layer of snow on the rooftop becomes unstable, the entire slab can fall. The slabs are heavy enough to seriously injure or even kill people.

“They’re on a slick, steel roof. Once those things take off, everything goes," Gordon said. "These pieces of snow are packing heat."

Gordon said there had been several rooftop avalanches over the past few days. He said one in Brian Head buried a couple of vehicles.

There was another one in Alta early Wednesday morning. Park City issued a warning to residents to be cautious when walking, so as not to end up below roofs holding lots of snow.

Gordon said residents should not try to mitigate the danger by triggering the slabs themselves. He said the safest thing to do is simply avoid areas below steep roofs.

Forecasters also expect the weather to be a problem up in higher elevations of the backcountry. They say heavy, wet snow piling up on weaker snow below will increase the risk. If you're heading into the backcountry, be sure to check for the latest avalanche forecast.

Sean Moody

KSL Weather Forecast