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Interior Health urges extreme caution due to avalanche danger

Interior Health is urging people to be prepared and extremely cautious in the backcountry, with continued high and considerable avalanche danger forecasted in many areas.

Dr. Fatemeh Sabet, a medical health officer, noted in a news release that 12 lives have already been claimed in the region this winter, including three on Wednesday near Invermere.

Avalanche Canada continues to forecast a dangerous snowpack.

“There have been more than double the number of avalanche fatalities compared to the previous season and we are only halfway through the season,” Dr. Sabet said.

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“We urge everyone thinking of venturing into the backcountry to check and make conservative choices, avoid dangerous terrain, and consider delaying a backcountry trip until conditions are safer.”

Avalanche Canada continues to monitor a deep, persistent slab avalanche problem for many areas across the interior, which is causing very dangerous and highly unpredictable avalanche conditions.

“We are dealing with a complex and very tricky snowpack,” said Ryan Buhler, forecast program supervisor for Avalanche Canada. “A widespread weak layer exists near the base of the snowpack throughout the interior and it’s been the cause of most of the fatal avalanche incidents this season.”

Buhler added with sunny weather in the forecast, they are expecting the snowpack to become even less stable.

“We know sunny weather can create a false sense of security and lure people out into avalanche terrain, even though unstable conditions exist. Even 30 minutes of sun can have a significant impact on the snowpack at this time of year.”

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