Rain increases chance for avalanches in Cascades

SNOQUALMIE PASS - The snow in the Cascade passes is turning to rain tonight. That’s not only leading to slush and ice on the roads. It’s also increasing the risk for avalanches. The Northwest Avalanche Center put out an alert for Snoqualmie Pass, Stevens Pass and the western slopes of the Cascades through Monday.

A lot of skiers and snowboarders took advantage of the last day of the holiday weekend and hit the slopes at the Summit at Snoqualmie.

“We were a little skeptical on the snow quality,” says Jesse Robinett. “But we’re just getting what we can while we can.”

The resort admits they have less snow than they normally do at this time, but they say they’ve been making snow and opening more lifts every day.

“We’ll make the best of it, it’s just fun to come,” says Brittany Heneghan. “It’s our second day of the year being up here, and we’ll enjoy it while we can.”

Conditions are already changing tonight. The snow is changing to rain prompting the Northwest Avalanche Center to issue an avalanche warning.

"There’s a foot to two feet of new snow. When you get a bunch of rain or heavy snow piled on top of that and warming temperatures, it’s in all likelihood going to slide,” says Benj Wadsworth. “There’ll probably be some natural avalanches tonight and tomorrow. Then certainly human triggered ones, if people are out there tomorrow.”

Ski patrols keep an eye on the resorts and do avalanche control in those areas. But Wadsworth says people are on their own in the back country. That’s why he thinks only people who have the proper equipment, like beacons and shovels, and the proper education, like one of their safety classes, should venture out there.

“If you’re not familiar with avalanches and don’t know how to assess the hazard, then stay in bounds.”