You must have all heard about the term Avalanche. It is nothing but a huge ball of snow that slides down the mountains to hit the ground, devastating anything that comes in its way. Avalanches happen instantly, and it is not possible to predict or stay prepared for one. You might come across many warning signs but then you will not able to detect the exact ones. Moreover, in almost all cases you don’t even get to know the reason of the avalanche. Most of the times, the avalanches are triggered by the ones who fall prey to it. Sometimes groups of people are involved who, unknowingly, cause the avalanche to take place. People who live in avalanche prone areas always have the risk of this calamity. Thus, on an average, almost more than 160 people die worldwide sue to avalanche.
What is an avalanche? An Avalanche is nothing but a huge mass of dry powdery snow that binds together and moves as a big mass of stone. Initially it’s a small ball but as it moves on the size increases and it becomes so huge that it can kill people coming in its way. Avalanches can occur in many ways. Some of the high scale avalanches occur when huge slabs of ice break down and they come down along the mountain side. As they come to the ground, they shatter like a broken glass and cause huge destruction. They come down at a very high speed and can cause massive damage within few seconds. People who are caught in such disastrous avalanches rarely get a chance to save their lives. People who have knowledge of avalanches say that usually 24 hours before the avalanche, a huge storm affects that area or a heavy snow fall occurs. Thus, you might not be able to find the exact reason of a particular avalanche as reasons are numerous.
People living in snowy areas are always under the danger of this natural calamity. You never know what kind of and when the avalanche will occur. Many factors like storms, wind and temperature make up the avalanche and cause them to slide down the mountains. Not only this, steepness of the slope also pays a major role because if the slope is not so steep then the avalanche can stop somewhere in the middle and cause less damage. The direction of wind sometimes decides the intensity of a particular avalanche. Thus, many reasons come up when an avalanche breaks downs in a particular area. Basically there are two types of avalanches. Surface avalanches occur when many layers of snow slide over each other and form a huge mass, and we have Full-Depth avalanches which occur when a whole cover of snow slides down as huge ball.
Avalanches can mostly occur in those areas where there is standing snowpack. Mostly you will experience this in cold areas. Whenever the temperature comes close to the freezing point, a gentle flow of the wind takes place. The water in the lowly areas melt and freeze repeatedly to make the snow packs strong and this can be a strong reason for the avalanche to occur. If the winds flowing are very strong, then the ice slabs move and break into pieces. Even rain is equally responsible for making avalanches occur. Rainfalls cause the existing slabs to become unstable. Due to the extra weight of the rain water, the snow packs experience extra load over them. When the snow chunks and water become one, the water becomes the lubricant at this time, and this accumulates the snow together to form a huge mass. As such, rainfall can cause avalanches of very high intensity and danger. At times the snow melts down if there is high sunlight, and forms a huge mass of water, while at night, the same water freezes again, making it stronger than earlier. Thus we can say that there are numerous factors which trigger the formation of avalanches making it very difficult to find the exact reason for a particular avalanche.
Many areas in the mountains are declared as danger zones. Many skiers who go out on an adventurous trip are trained and instructed well before they set out for the journey. The whole course is about the avalanche and is open to members of all age. You don’t have to be afraid of the mountains. It’s just that you need to have the presence of mind and the perfect tools. When people go out for skiing, they do the dig test which means they test the ground to indentify the weak zones and zones where avalanches could occur. It’s not so easy to identify the prone areas as they are snow clad and may feel safe initially but then bring in most of the risk later on. You also need to prepare yourself about the rescue plans well in advance as the ones who have gone through all the turmoil are ones who makes rescue plans and have all the knowledge about this calamity.
You can take various measures which will help you to keep all the dangers at bay. If you find a highly snow clad area, then you can repeatedly travel there to reduce the level of snow. Also, snow falls happen regularly in these areas. Thus, you can control the flow of snow by making snow fences. Also, a few walls here and there will help the snow to flow in a particular direction and will also limit the snow accumulation. Growing more and more numbers of trees will lessen the impact of snow on a certain area. Many such barriers can be placed at regular distances to make the area free from huge avalanches.
But, here are some handy tips which might help you in case you come across such a huge avalanche and have no rescue plans in your mind. If you happen to suddenly feel some symptoms of avalanche then grab hold one of the ice slabs you find near you. Though it’s not that easy, it will help you to have a safety options as well as support. If you are skiing at that time then try to come down the mountain as fast as you can and change the directions so that you do not come under the whole mass of ice. If you don’t find any escape plan the grab hold a tree in the vicinity. This can support you through the avalanche and help you come out safe after the avalanche has settled. Avalanches are not so heavy, in fact they are a huge snow ball of very low mass. The mass of body is three times denser than that of snow so it can easily sink in. If you happen to come under the control of the avalanche, make sure to continuously stretch your hands and legs out so that you get some air to breathe and as soon as the avalanche slows down you can breathe fast to normal your breathing speed. Once the avalanche comes to a standstill it is like a huge mass of concrete of no use. And not only this, if you happen to be inside it, you are unable to move any of you body parts. Research says that the earlier you remove the body, the higher are his or her chances of staying alive. If you remove the body within half hour after the avalanche has settled, then the body is almost safe but if the body is not removed for one to two hours then the body will hardly be alive.
When we look at the avalanches which took place in the past, it is worth mentioning the avalanche named Cascade Range that took place in Washington in the USA. The avalanche was of such a high intensity that it took away the lives of about 118 people. Also, when the World War 1 was going on, approximately 50,000 soldiers died due to the avalanche at the Austrian-Italian front in the Alps area. Thus, we can see that avalanches have a huge history and they will continue to occur if we don’t take proper measures. Taking proper precaution can save many lives. Keep all the safety measures with you when you go to such mountains as you never know when an avalanche will occur and kill lives.
Avalanches are huge balls of snow that roll down mountains. They can occur any time at any place without any notice, and can never even be predicted. All you can do is stay prepared at all times to combat it and come out alive.