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Woodland Hills avalanche leads to hiking trail closure, safety notice

By Connor Richards daily Herald - | Feb 22, 2021
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A photo shows the area impacted by an avalanche near Woodland Hills that was discovered on Saturday, Feb. 20.

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A drone image shows an avalanche near Woodland Hills that was discovered on Saturday, Feb. 20. 

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A photo shows the area impacted by an avalanche near Woodland Hills that was discovered on Saturday, Feb. 20.

An avalanche that traveled nearly a mile and a half in south Utah County prompted officials to close the Woodland Hills Switchback Trail as a safety precaution.

The avalanche was discovered Saturday by two hikers who documented their find on Facebook, posting images and videos of the area impacted by the avalanche.

According to Sgt. Spencer Cannon, Utah County Sheriff’s Office Public Information Officer, the avalanche started Friday at approximately 3,000 feet in elevation near Santaquin Peak.

The width of the avalanche was approximately 100 feet, according to the Utah Avalanche Center.

The avalanche eventually stopped as the slope got more shallow, heading toward Woodland Hills, Cannon said Monday.

“But had it continued to run out, it would have come out on Eagle Nest Drive there in Woodland Hills,” he said.

Cannon noted there were no injuries caused by the avalanche, which he compared to “however many other hundreds of avalanches that just come down naturally.”

“It is fortunate that it was in an area that is lightly traveled,” he said, adding that “obviously there are some people that do hike in the area.”

The Utah Division of Emergency Management put out a notice about the avalanche and urged south Utah County residents to avoid using from the Woodland Hills Switchback Trail.

Woodland Hills City Councilmember Kari Malkovich addressed the avalanche on Facebook, saying “we assume it was naturally caused.”

“We’re blessed that it didn’t come farther down near homes,” Malkovich wrote.

As of Monday, the Utah Avalanche Center listed the Provo area, which includes Woodland Hills, as having “considerable” avalanche danger, meaning “human-triggered avalanches are likely” and the danger is most prevalent “on the west to north to southeast facing slopes where weak faceted snow exists and on any recently wind drifted terrain.”

Cannon recommended south Utah County residents travel in pairs and bring backcountry safety equipment when they are hiking.

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