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Utah avalanche forecasters warn of roof avalanches

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BRIGHTON — Avalanche forecasters warned about an increased risk of roof avalanches Thursday, ahead of a storm that was expected to bring warmer temperatures, strong winds and rain up to 8,000 feet in elevation.

With as much snow as Utah has received this winter, the threat of avalanches is a given. But when you've lived in the mountains as long as Brighton Mayor Dan Knopp has, mountain slides aren't the only kind of avalanches to worry about.

"Weird things start happening when you get this much snow," he said.

Knopp said "roofalanches" aren't new in his town of Brighton. But they've certainly "got my attention this year."

Winter storms have produced a deep snowpack, and consistently cold temperatures have kept snow piling up on rooftops.

Knopp, who has owned Silver Fork Lodge for the last 30 years, said he hasn't had to shovel the roof in the last four or five years. But this season, he's already used a snowblower on the roof twice.

Now with warmer weather moving in and rain expected above 8,000 feet, avalanche forecasters warn roof avalanches could be a "significant hazard."

"What that means is really warm temperatures, really high winds and a lot of water," said Nikki Champion, an avalanche forecaster with the Utah Avalanche Center.

Champion said roof avalanches are especially a concern for children or pets. "It's just a lot of snow that can ... fall at one time and potentially bury a person," she said.

Knopp has already seen what the snowpack can do this winter. About three weeks ago, snow slid off of one of his employee's homes and "flattened her Tesla."

At a different home last month, the weight of the snow was too much and crushed a garage with a car inside.

Still, Knopp has lived in the mountains for 40 years and he said this is something they expect, prepare for and have learned to live with.

"We're a community. We work together," he said. "It's the mountains and it's the weather. You just take it as it comes."

Knopp said most of the homes in Brighton are built for deep snow, and many residents have been proactive by shoveling snow off their roofs.


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