Avalanches form when snow flows loosen from upper mountain slopes; annually, 250 people die in them. Mont Blanc is the most dangerous peak at 15,000 feet, accounting for 75 % of deaths in the range. During the Winter of Terror, 649 avalanches are reported responsible for 40,000 Swiss and Austrians.
Himalayans and Slab Types (03:30)
At 29,000 feet, Everest is the highest peak in the world; in 1995, 26 people were reported dead in the worst avalanche to strike Nepal. Slabs are triggered by temperature changes, rainfall, and loud noises; Paul Fohn illustrates the event's basic mechanics.
Andes Sturzstrom and Wind Types (03:34)
In 1962, a Super Debris Slab off Mount Huascaran reached 200 miles per hour, generating hurricane force winds for ten miles; it flattened towns, killed 4,000 people and 10,000 animals. A Wind avalanche is formed by light, airy snow gathering momentum; it reaches high speeds and extends to a mile wide and 100 feet deep.
Cascades: Wellington (02:20)
In March 1910, a passenger rail and a mail train were snow locked for a week in Washington. Rain and lightning dislodged a slab avalanche, engulfing them, tossing them down the mountain, and burying them under 40 feet of snow. Ninety-three died, and the event is considered one of the United States' deadliest avalanches and worst railway disasters.
The White Death (03:32)
In 1954, a wind type rushed through Blons, Austria. During the attempt to uncover 118 suffocating residents, another avalanche covered the rescuers in 90 feet of snow. International helpers dug the village out and parachuted in supplies; 200 people died.
Cascades: Mount Rainier (03:41)
In 1981, 29 climbers set out to conquer Washington's tallest peak; they heard a crack before being hit by an avalanche. There were 11 survivors. The event is considered the worst mountaineering accident in United States' history.
In 1999, an Austrian ski resort was hit by a dry snow type reaching 200 miles per hour and 300 feet high; it disabled transportation routes. A resident dog dug out many, aiding in rescue of 26 people. Houses located in the Green Zone were unexpectedly impacted; 38 people died.
Chamonix and Impact Control (07:41)
Austria experienced horrid winter conditions in 1999; rescue teams were overwhelmed by avalanches triggered by historic snowfalls. Seventy people died at a French ski resort. Ninety percent of snow flows are caused by skiers and mountaineers; survival is possible with preparation.
Study and Prediction (06:08)
In 1999, scientists tested a concrete bunker equipped with avalanche measuring technology; they purposely set one off, gathering data for behavior and predictability studies. Research has allowed experts to forecast where and sometimes when an event will occur.
Credits: Alpine Avalanches (00:29)
Credits: Alpine Avalanches
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