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At 3:40 PM on March 7, 2019, an avalanche roared down the Y Chute near Copper Mountain. The avalanche ran 1100 feet further than previously recorded. It tore through 750 feet of mature timber. It slammed into Highway 91 and caught three cars, with five total occupants. Swift action from other motorists and nearby State Troopers meant all five motorists were rescued within 10 minutes, with minor injuries. You can find the full report on the CAIC's Accidents > Colorado page or https://avalanche.state.co.us/caic/acc/acc_report.php?acc_id=714&accfm=inv The photo shows the roof of one of the vehicles during debris removal. The three passengers were rescued within about 10 minutes of the avalanche (Image courtesy Rescuer 1).
March 2019 was a historically bad month for avalanches in Colorado. Extreme danger led to the closure of numerous highways and ski areas. Highway 91, where the cars were caught, had been closed earlier that day after a natural avalanche damaged a nearby gas line. The road was reopened to passenger cars at 3:30PM, and roughly ten minutes later a slide buried three cars.
The slide was later classified as R5D4, meaning that it was the maximum size possible for the slide path and had major destructive potential. CAIC photo.
The driver of a car which narrowly avoided being caught in the slide was a backcountry skier equipped with avalanche safety equipment. He rescued a family of three whose truck had been filled with snow from the slide. Ultimately, bystanders and Highway Patrol rescued all five occupants of the three caught cars within 15 minutes of the slide, and no one was killed. See the full report here.
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