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Avalanche warning issued for Panhandle mountains

 
December 23, 2021

The Idaho Panhandle Avalanche Center has issued a backcountry avalanche watch for the Selkirk, Purcell, Cabinet and Northern Bitterroot Mountains, in effect until 6 p.m. Friday, December 24. A relatively warm winter storm with increasing wind may produce new unstable slabs and will stress any older weak layers. Watch for new wind slab avalanche problems near and above tree line and for storm slab avalanche problems on all aspects and elevations.

With heavy snow and windy conditions forecast, very dangerous avalanche conditions may develop. Large avalanches may run long distances and into mature forests, valley floors, or flat terrain. Similar avalanche danger may exist at locations outside the coverage area of any Avalanche Center.

In the past 24 hours, the Selkirks and Cabinets forecast zone received four to seven inches of new snow containing around one inch of water (SWE). Continued snowfall may bring an additional foot or more of new snow with another inch of water tonight. Snow levels rose toward 4,000-feet today and are expected to drop sharply overnight. Moderate southwest wind with strong gusts should readily transport even this dense new snow near and especially above tree line.

The active winter weather of the past week has added complexity to the upper snowpack. Storm snow avalanches could potentially step down to deeper layers. Increasing snow height and coverage continues to fill in avalanche terrain.

Field observations earlier this week indicate some potential for a facet layer just above the ground on upper elevation northerly aspects. The potential size of avalanches has increased in the past week and thoe in the backcountry should consider the consequence of large avalanches in choosing terrain.

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