Avalanche danger at Snoqualmie Pass has search and rescue crews standing by

Recent heavy snowfall mixed with the snap of warm spring temperatures creates a recipe for disaster on Washington’s Cascades and mountain passes.

A forecast from the Northwest Avalanche Center said there is "considerable" avalanche danger at Snoqualmie Pass, and will increase to the "high" level of danger on Thursday when temperatures are even warmer.

An avalanche can wipe out roads, property and lives in an instant. Deputy Peter Linde with King County Sheriff’s Office Search & Rescue Unit said crews are prepared in case of an emergency.

"It’s not uncommon to have secondary avalanches," said Linde. "Just because one has gone down, doesn’t mean there might not be another one."

For those who go to the backcountry in these conditions, Linde says they go at their own risk, but they should carry the proper tools in case they are trapped.

"With people on the scene, they need to start doing the rescue themselves. Typically, if a person is buried, survived the avalanche, they have maybe 15 minutes to survive," said Linde.

A beacon is a Bluetooth device that transmits signals that can be detected by other devices. It can save lives during an avalanche. When it’s on and activated, a beacon would help Linde and rescues teams find the victim fast.

"This saves a tremendous amount of time. If you’re buried in the snow and you didn’t have a beacon, I’m going to spend hours and hours with these looking for you," said Linde, holding two shovels in his hands.

The deputy said people need to carry their own shovel if they plan to recreate in the mountain and backcountry. If able, they can start digging themselves out until help arrives. Linde said one of the most important tools, though, is knowing the conditions before you go. Check the avalanche forecast to determine if a trip to the mountain is even worth the risk.

"I think the public has gotten better educated, people are getting better prepared. And I don’t want to jinx myself, but it has been a long time since we’ve had some kind of disaster in an avalanche," said Linde.

Search & Rescue said it’s always important to tell people where you’re going on the mountain, who you are with and how long you plan to stay out regardless of the weather conditions. 

Thursday will likely be the warmest day of the year so far

A ridge of high pressure will settle in over the Pacific Northwest Wednesday and Thursday bringing warmer and drier weather to the area.

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