Saturday, January 06, 2007

Huge avalanche on Berthoud Pass traps at least six, closes highway

DENVER (AP) — Highway officials say a massive avalanche buried several cars and sent others over the edge on U.S. 40 on 11,307-foot-high Berthoud Pass about 60 miles west of Denver.
"Our crews said it was the largest they have ever seen. It took three paths," said Stacey Stegman, spokeswoman for the Colorado Department of Transportation.

Crews have rescued at least six people, she said. They were probing the area for other survivors.

She said some cars were buried in the snow in an area called Stanley near Berthoud Falls between 10:00 and 10:30 a.m.

Berthoud Pass is the main route to Winter Park, one of Colorado's largest ski areas.

Avalanche danger was CONSIDERABLE. Here's Friday's avalanche forecast for the area from the Colorado Avalanche Informaiton Center:
Snowpack Discussion
7 triggered avalanches reported today, all on N aspects starting near treeline. Six of these were in the new snow, but one broke much deeper as a hard slab. Fracture line was not recorded as visibility was zero. Today we have little wind with this storm. Instabilities are generally confined to the new snow. Beginning on Saturday, West winds will be on the increase which will have an impact on slab formation. Expect an increase in the avalanche danger tomorrow on the east half of the compass aspects, all elevations.

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