"Slush Slides" Rushing Down Utah's Back Country

"Slush Slides" Rushing Down Utah's Back Country

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Jed Boal ReportingIn a wet spring with remarkable weather there's also something unusual going on in Utah's mountains where the snow is starting to melt. We see plenty of avalanches in our mountains, but this is a different kind of slide. Gravity is going to work on Utah's high-elevation snow.

Randy Julander, Utah Snow Survey Hydrologist: "It's like a huge slush flow that runs down the mountain."

Last week snow survey hydrologist Randy Julander flew along the east side of the Timpanogos Divide and took pictures of avalanches. He calls these avalanches “slush slides” or "glide slides”--phenomena we don't usually see.

Randy Julander: "What we saw were literally hundreds of wet avalanches coming down the steeper slopes."

In the pictures you can see the slides in every chute in the basin. There's a point of release up high, and the avalanche drains a massive amount of snow as it runs out.

Randy Julander: "Very warm temperatures and very saturated snow conditions to get these to move."

They’re the remnants of warm temperatures, deep snowpack and spring rain. Some of the slides are one hundred yards wide, run for a half mile, and pile up debris five to ten feet deep. Usually there is not enough deep snow still around this time of year to slide.

Rour years ago a spring slush slide killed two hikers in Big Cottonwood Canyon and amazed rescuers.

Dep. Peggy Faulkner, Salt Lake County Sheriff's Office, April 29, 2001: "They characterized this avalanche as the biggest slide they've ever seen, and some of these men and women have been doing this for years."

It measured a mile long and ten feet deep.

Avalanche danger is unpredictable in the spring.

Randy Julander: "Can be very dangerous, and probably a warning to recreational users of the back country that they should be expecting these things, and they could be going on some time."

Massive amounts of snow loosen slowly over time then release suddenly. The slides are deadly and random. It's a good idea to be cautious when hiking or snowshoeing on or near steep slopes this time of year.

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