Thousands of avalanches occur in Canada each year. They happen in all regions of Canada, but are more frequent in the mountains of British Columbia, Yukon and Alberta. Avalanches can be triggered by wind, rain, warming temperatures, snow and earthquakes. They can also be triggered by skiers, snowmobiles, hikers, vibrations from machinery or construction.
What to do:
- An avalanche occurs when a layer of snow collapses and slides downhill.
- Avalanches are caused by four factors: a steep slope, snow cover, a weak layer in the snow cover and a trigger.
- Roads and railway tracks may be rerouted to reduce risks.
- Safe avalanches may be triggered in dangerous snow packs.
- Avalanches can travel up to 90 km/h.
- After one hour, only one in three victims buried in an avalanche is found alive. The most common causes of death are suffocation, wounds and hypothermia.
- If you are planning to travel in backcountry, take an avalanche safety course.
- When traveling in backcountry, always travel in a group. Ensure you have an experienced group leader. Always stay within view of your group.
- When driving, observe the sign "Avalanche Area-Do Not Stop."
- Drive carefully in avalanche areas. Avalanches may reach the road without warning.
- Obey road closures. When the avalanche hazard is high, control work by explosives may be carried out at any time.
- If an avalanche blocks the highway, remain in your vehicle with seat belts on. Wait for assistance. It is easier to find a car in the snow than it is to find a person. Drive to a safe area if possible.
- Avoid driving through even small avalanches.
- If you live on a farm, moving livestock away from those areas when risks are present is recommended. There is seldom time for management or animal reaction during the event. If pastures, pens or egress roads are below a slope that is steep and accumulates snow, be cautious when heavy snow falls on old frozen snow and is then followed by a warm period.
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