Avalanche risk high as snow moves in

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A hiker looks over upper McDonald Creek last week.

An incoming bout of winter weather will make area roadways and mountain ranges treacherous.

The National Weather Service’s Missoula office has issued a winter weather advisory, valid from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Thursday, for the Flathead and Mission valleys and the Kootenai-Cabinet region. Forecasters expect snow accumulation of up to 3 inches and, in some cases, as much as 5 inches. Winds gusting as high as 30 miles per hour will also cause blowing snow. Motorists are advised to use caution when driving.

These conditions, combined with recent warm weather and rain, are raising the avalanche danger in local mountain ranges. The Flathead Avalanche Center has placed the Swan, Flathead, and Whitefish ranges, and Glacier National Park, under “high” avalanche danger, the second-highest raiting.

“Heavy snowfall, rain and strong winds are stressing multiple weak layers in the snowpack,” the center warned Thursday. “Large and destructive avalanches are likely to fail naturally.”

According to the center, avalanches under these conditions “may run long distances and can run into mature forests, valley floors, or flat terrain.”

Under these conditions, the center advises against traveling in avalanche terrain. For more information, visit www.flatheadavalanche.org, or call the center’s dvisory hotline at (406)257-8402. Weather updates can be found at the National Weather Service Missoula Office’s website, https://www.weather.gov/mso/.

Reporter Patrick Reilly can be reached at preilly@dailyinterlake.com, or at 758-4407.

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