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Kim Johnson ReportingIf spring fever takes you into the canyons or back country any time soon, be aware of raging creeks and rivers, hill slides, and boulders. Boulders are on a lot of minds today, after one broke loose yesterday and destroyed a Provo bungalow.
If you're in a canyon or near a mountain slope, take note of the landscape. If you see an outcropping of rocks, consider them unlikely, but potential hazards. What is up can always come down. Until they thunder down a mountainside with terrifying speed, like one did yesterday on Y Mountain, we tend to forget about boulders and their power to destroy.
Gary Christenson, State Geologist: “They’re difficult geologic hazards to deal with because they’re fairly random events. They don’t happen a lot. They’re not real common, but they do happen and always will happen.”
Another State Geologist was on Y mountain today studying the scene of yesterday's collision. He explains how wet weather contributes to rock falls.
Rich Giraud, State Geologist: “This is the rock outcrop. A lot of times you have a lot of water seeping in behind it, and then you just have a large piece of rock outcrop that basically falls off and starts tumbling down the slope.”
Geologists say rock falls are considered a form of landslides, and landslides are fairly prevalent this year. But Gary Christenson says boulders themselves haven't been a problem, until yesterday.
Gary Christenson, State Geologist: “So far we haven’t had a lot or rock fall problems. Probably the biggest has been down in Zion National Park where they’ve had to close a road a couple of times because of rock falls. Haven’t been any lately, but I expect there will be more this spring.”
Far more dangerous than boulders breaking loose, though, are avalanches. Forecasters say usually by May the wet avalanche season is over. This year it's just beginning and warm temperatures forecast for the weekend are going to melt an already unstable snow pack.
Bruce Tremper, Avalanche Forecast Ctr.: “Avoid crossing or going underneath steep, snow-filled slopes because they could be producing wet avalanches, especially in the heat of the afternoon. Watch where you have your picnic. It’s not a good place to be underneath Bridal Veil Falls or Stair’s Gulch, or Underneath Superior, or something like that.”
Again, be careful. The ground is saturated, banks along creeks and rivers are unstable. The Canyons are gorgeous, but not the safest places to be for the next month or two.