On February 28, 2014, the snow accumulated on Mount Jumbo came thundering down the mountain and caused one death, along with several serious injuries and hundreds of thousands of dollars in damage.

What has become known as Missoula’s ‘Urban Avalanche’ is still a vivid memory in the minds of Rattlesnake area residents and first responders.

With that in mind, Missoula City Fire Chief Jeff Brandt called a press conference for 3:00 p.m. on Thursday, to alert the public about the danger of another such avalanche.

Brandt introduced Travis Craft with the West Central Avalanche Center.

“The city contracted him to go up on Mount Jumbo and provide an analysis of the avalanche danger,” said Brandt. “He and his team were up there both Wednesday and Thursday and brought back information he confirmed that there is a dangerous situation up on Mount Jumbo.”

After Monday’s heavy snow event, the following day, the city completely closed Mount Jumbo.

“All accesses have been closed and signed,” he said. “Extra patrols by the police and sheriff’s departments are being carried out. A RAVE alert has been sent to residents around the base of Mount Jumbo and wrapped around to the other side in East Missoula. We’re currently asking the public to stay alert for further updates, we’re asking the residents to report any activity up ion the mountain, to stay away and be alert, and if you do see something up there, call 9-1-1.”

This reporter asked about whether drones would be allowed to fly in the area. Brandt said that had not been discussed, but he will bring that subject up during their meeting on Friday. Brandt said a drone could not start an avalanche, but it could spook an elk herd that might trigger a slide.

Brandt said changing weather patterns can cause instability on the mountain.

“We’ve had some warmer temperatures today,” he said. “Now that it’s warm, we have yet another layer of ice and with the expected snow and high winds that will add yet another layer of snow that will bring a greater potential, if you will. We are monitoring every 24 hours with Travis and his crew.”

Since an avalanche can occur without warning, Brandt urges residents to stay alert until the danger passes.

In 2014, one woman, Michel Jo Colville was killed and her husband, Fred Allendorf was badly injured when the avalanche slammed into their home. One eight year-old boy was caught in the slide as he was playing outdoors, but fully recovered from his injuries.

Brandt urges anyone spotting illegal activity on the mountain to call 9-1-1 immediately.


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