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Special avalanche warning persists as B.C. mountains see 'significant warm up'

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The risk of avalanches this weekend in the alpine areas of B.C.’s South Coast mountains is considerable, and Avalanche Canada’s special warning for multiple regions of B.C. remains in place.

Earlier this week, the agency issued the warning for multiple Southern Interior regions as well as the Sea-to-Sky and South Coast Inland regions, from Squamish to Pemberton.

“There is a significant warm up occurring,” said Karl Klassen, the warning service manager for Avalanche Canada.

“The problem is that we’re not seeing a lot of avalanches, but the ones we’re seeing are unexpected and large.”

On Friday, the hazard level for the South Coast mountains, which includes Metro Vancouver’s mountains, increased.

For both Saturday and Sunday in alpine areas – the upper third of the mountains – the hazard level is 3 out of 5, also known as “considerable.” This, says Klassen, is up from a hazard level of 2 earlier in the week.

A hazard level of 3 means that natural avalanches are possible, and human-triggered avalanches are likely.

“There is a lot of uncertainty as to how the snowpack is going to react to the sustained heat and sun,” reads the Avalanche Canada forecast for the South Coast.

“Loose, wet avalanches and cornice failures are expected to become more likely each day.”

Klassen says to approach any backcountry areas with caution, and to only go out if you’re trained and practiced on avalanche safety.

“I'd be very, very cautious wherever the temperatures are rising, especially if they're rising rapidly and getting warm. And I'd also be very, very cautious on the slopes that are getting direct sun and solar radiation,” he said. 

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