Friday, July 27, 2012

POV of Denali Messner Avalanche

The poster's description pretty much says it all:
"Avalanche starts at 5:06. At 5:34 I turn my skis left and start to make pressure with my edges (to avoid flying over the bergschrund). At 5:55 I manage to come out the side of the avalanche. Injuries: Not a scratch, just broke a whippet."
As, look very carefully at the start of the avalanche, at around 5:10, and you can see the broken-up slab.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

More on the Mt Blanc/Maudit Avy

Articles from:
British Mountaineering Council
Daily Mail
.. and profile of Roger Payne, a professional mountain guide who died in the avalanche.  (At least one other group was guided.)

Still not much in the way of substantive information regarding stability assessment, slide mechanics, etc., but that's quite rare in the mass media, especially immediately following an incident.  (The picture that purports to be of avalanche-affected snow is probably just showing previously existing glacier features.)

Monday, July 16, 2012

Landslide Footage from British Columbia

I'm having trouble coming up with any direct relevance for this to avalanche safety, but I suspect that anyone interested in avalanche dynamics will find this fascinating . . . and terrifying.

Click on this link for the full news video that accompanies the print story copied below, or click here for the shocking raw footage that is excerpted at about the 1:00 minute mark in the full news video.

B.C. landslide: search to resume at daybreak for four missing

Global News crew narrowly misses second slide while camera is rolling

Read it on Global News: A Global News crew captures another landslide in southeastern British Columbia on camera. 

The search will resume at daybreak on Saturday for as many as four people who are believed to be buried under several metres of rock, mud and trees after a landslide in Johnsons Landing, B.C., but hopes they'll be found are fading fast.
Searchers armed with heavy equipment and avalanche beacons waded into an area Friday that was devastated by a massive landslide in British Columbia's Interior.

By mid-afternoon, geotechnicians and landslide experts declared the area safe for searchers, said Central Kootenay Regional District spokesman Bill Macpherson.

Macpherson said emergency responders with heavy equipment reached one of the homes. They were carrying avalanche beacons and transmitters for their own safety.

"In spite of ongoing debris movement and continued slope instability, the search of the landslide at Johnsons Landing has resumed this afternoon," Macpherson said in a news release Friday.

The situation in southeastern British Columbia remained volatile early Friday, as landslides continued to erupt in the tiny community of Johnsons Landing.

Global National correspondent Francis Silvaggio and photojournalist Mike Gill were in the area Friday morning, speaking with a homeowner who showed up looking for her cat when another slide occurred. "We all scrambled and just missed getting caught," Silvaggio said in an e-mail.

"(My) heart (is) still pounding a bit higher than usual."

The first slide happened Thursday afternoon, when rocks, mud and trees crashed down a mountain above the shores of Kootenay Lake, ripping through Johnsons Landing, which is about 70 kilometres northeast of Nelson.

Four people remain unaccounted for. Dangerously unstable conditions prevented search-and-rescue crews from beginning their work Friday morning.

A dog unit was able to enter the area on Thursday.

Lynn Migdal, who lives and works in Florida, is still waiting for answers about her ex-husband, Valentine Webber, and their two daughters Diana Webber, 21, and Rachel Webber, 17.

The fourth person who remains missing is a German tourist.

"Of course I don't want to start crying," Migdal told Global News "but we are talking about oxygen here and I am just waiting to find out if anyone is alive, and why did it take so long for (search crews) to get there today."

Being so far away, she knows very little at this time.

"I have heard nothing so far about my family other than that they were in the house at the time of the avalanche and from all the pics we know they were in the older edition, which is underground, and they need to be dug out and they have been underground since 11 your time yesterday."

"I picture 20 dogs looking for my children," Migdal added. "Or a couple hundred men with shovels digging my house up."

At least three homes in the tiny hamlet of Johnsons Landing were believed to have been crushed by the landslide.

Sarah Jenkins, Valentine Webber's niece, said the family is from the area and had lived on the house for years. Webber built the family's home and a small cabin on the property himself, she said. Valentine, who goes by Val, is a sailor who worked on shipping vessels until a shoulder injury a couple of years ago. Rachel is still in high school, while Diana has been attempting to pursuing a career in Los Angeles as a screenwriter, said Jenkins.

"Somebody should get up there and start looking," Jenkins said.

B.C. Premier Christy Clark issued a statement offering her condolences to the families of the missing and praising the work of search-and-rescue personnel.

"On behalf of all British Columbians, I want to express my deepest sympathy to the families and loved ones of the individuals who are missing as a result of this sudden and tragic natural disaster," Clark said in the statement.

"For a small and close-knit community like Johnsons Landing, (Thursday's) tragedy will have a lasting impact. I want everyone to know they have our government's full support as they recover from this very difficult time."

Retired doctor Roland Procter heard the thunderous noise of the slide at about 11 a.m. Thursday while he was reading on his garden deck.

"It was a prolonged 20 to 30-second rumbling that was unlike any rumbling I've ever heard," he said.

"I realized right away there was only one thing it could be."

Procter was about 500 metres away as the massive torrent of mud gushed down from Gar Creek, sweeping up large trees and snapping them like toothpicks as the muck engulfed half of his tiny village.

RCMP officers and search and rescue teams from southeastern B.C. were bolstered by members of the Vancouver-based Heavy Urban Search and Rescue team. The scene of the landslide can only be reached by boat because the dirt road leading to the remote community was covered by the landslide debris up to four metres deep.

A state of local emergency was declared for the area and several residents were forced to leave Thursday to the community of Kaslo, across the lake from the slide.

Read it on Global News: A Global News crew captures another landslide in southeastern British Columbia on camera. 

Thursday, July 12, 2012

At Least 9, Maybe 13, Avy Fatalities Near Mt Blanc

Still very early for any solid news, but the grim count so far seems to be nine confirmed dead, another four missing, and eleven hospitalized.

Accordingly to an apparently more recent report, the four previously unaccounted-for climbers are now safely accounted for.  (Two had taken a different route, and another two had cancelled their climb entirely.)

Route map below:

Map of avalanche area

The initial account (and the map) is from the BBC.

But a more updated account from the Associated Press has this assessment of the slide mechanics:

A block of ice 40 centimeters (16 inches) thick broke off and slid down the slope, creating a mass of snow that was 2 meters (6 feet) deep and 50 meters (160 feet) long.
"The first elements that we have from testimony are that a climber could have set loose a sheet of ice, and that sheet then pulled down the group of climbers below. I should say the incline was very, very steep on this northern face," Col. Bertrand François of the Haute-Savoie police told reporters.

Sunday, July 1, 2012 Website

Like the post title says, go to:
... for a map of North American sites (seems like mainly airports though?), with graphs showing -- by month -- frequency by direction, and average speed by direction, along with percent of time totally calm.
You can also click the play button in the middle of the month selector to show how the winds vary during the course of a year.