Already on Wednesday the Northwestern Alps received a lot of snowfall, but with a rapidly increasing snow level another 20 to 50 centimeters fell yesterday. Snow levels were temporarily around 2000 meter, so only the high alpine regions got a massive amount of snow. Above 2500 meters Savoie and Eastern Wallis received in total up to 1 meters of snow. Haute-Savoie and Isère up to 70 to 80 centimeters. It created a very tricky avalanche situation and there is still quite some snow expected in the next couple of days.
With this precipitation, the avalanche danger increased rapidly. The situation is extremely critical! For parts of Wallis and Central-Switzerland avalanche danger level 5 out of 5 was issued yesterday. Large spontaneous avalanches are possible and may even reach valleys, like it did in Les Diablerets.
Today, large parts of Switzerland are dealing with level 4. Also in France, the danger of large spontaneous avalanches is very high. For today, an avalanche risk of level 5 is issued for Haute Tarentaise, Vanoise and Haute Maurienne in Savoie. The rest of the French Alps are dealing with level 4. Meteofrance stated that such an event like we are experiencing at the moment happens only once in every 10 years for Savoie and Haute-Savoie.
Roads are being closed, so several villages got cut off from the outside world. Local citizens in the high risk areas are requested to stay inside, so it is clear that skiing is a clear no-go in this situation. Don’t do it! There is a very high risk of large powder avalanches in the high alpine areas which got lots of snow and simultaneously a high risk of wet snow avalanches in lower regions due to the rainfall. In lower regions, discharges of rivers are so high that local floods could occur. Due to the continuous rainfall, mudslides are another risk that the locals have to deal with today.
Also in Austria rain fell up to 2000 meters. Especially in Vorarlberg more than 50 mm fell in the last 24 hours. The effect of this rainfall is visible in the webcam images above. On the left you can see a nicely snow covered Schröcken yesterday, but today this winterwonderland changed due to the large amounts of rain. On the steep grassy slopes in the back there are some gliding snow avalanches visible, which is exactly what we expect on these kind of slopes with lots of rainfall.
Especially this morning it kept snowing fairly strong in the Northwestern Alps. In the next couple of hours the intensity will decrease a bit, but in the evening it will get stronger again. It will keep snowing until midnight in the Western Alps and until early morning in Austria. During the day some cooler air is flowing towards the Alps, causing the snow level to drop, with values of 1000 to 1200 meters during the evening. As can be seen in our snow accumulation map, large parts of the Northern French Alps and Switzerland will receive another 30 to 50 centimeters of snow today. Also today these regions have to deal with a critical avalanche danger.
Also tomorrow the avalanche conditions will still be tricky with again some fresh snow, but the amounts won’t be as much as during the last days. I expect 20, maybe 30 centimeters in the northern French Alps and large parts of Switzerland and between 10 and 20 centimeters further to the east until Sunday morning. With some mild air inflow the snow level will be much higher again. For the Western Alps it could be temporarily around 2000 meters again, but during the evening it will drop again to 1200 meters. In the eastern part of Austria the snow level will stay below 1500 meters and further east even lower. The Southern Alps will profit from this snowfall as well, with up to 10 or maybe even 20 centimeters of snow overnight and a snow level between roughly 1200 and 1700 meter.
While it will still snow in Austria on Sunday morning, the Western Alps will clear up. After days of snow and rainfall it will be a fairly calm day with some sunshine. The eastern Alps will deal with more leftover clouds from the rainfall, so I don’t expect that much sunshine there. After this short dry period on Sunday, a new low pressure system will approach the Alps from the west. It will stay relatively mild with a snow level of around 1500 meters in the west and 1200 meters further east. Another 20 to 30 centimeters of snow for the Northern French Alps and Switzerland are expected. On the long-term, we will still be dealing with a similar weather pattern with relatively mild conditions and chances for precipitation.
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