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Terrible history of avalanches – Svet24.si

In Slovenia, an alpine country with many mountainous and hilly areas, avalanches have always been triggered due to the large amounts of snow that we have at least in higher altitudes every year.

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A landslide that closed the road between Cluj and Log pod Mangartom.

In the past, they claimed many lives and caused damage to us. On 22 and 23 January this year, huge avalanches in the Bovec region again warned of this danger, this time “only” closing traffic connections, while in 1952 in the Upper Soča they demolished more than ten residential houses, damaged nearly twenty and claimed 15 lives.

“Avalanches are not a major problem in terms of the damage caused, but it is completely different in terms of victims, as we are at the very top in terms of their number due to natural disasters. On average, they claim one to two deaths a year. However, it is necessary to distinguish between avalanches, which are triggered spontaneously, independently of man – such were the last Bovec – and those that are triggered by visitors to the snowy mountains. The latter – when we go to dangerous areas due to poor assessment of the situation – is connected with a large part of accidents due to avalanches. ”

“There are many landslides in the highlands every year, and their frequency depends on the amount of snow each time. Despite their abundance, these landslides are mostly triggered without the public finding out about them, unless they land a touring skier. However, areas above the forest boundary are by no means the only ones where avalanches can trigger. The many ravines in our mountains allow them to reach all the way to the bottom of the valleys from the high mountain areas. Such were also the landslides that broke out in the Bovec region on 22 and 23 January this year and disrupted traffic connections. Avalanches are also common in hilly or mid-mountainous areas. They are also triggered in the hills, as we have a recorded death toll in Haloze, “ explains Assoc. prof. dr. Matija Zorn, head of the Anton Melik Geographical Institute and head of the Department of Physical Geography, which operates within the Scientific Research Center of the Slovenian Academy of Sciences and Arts.

The forest stops the landslides

There have been no such avalanches in the Bovec region for almost seven decades. “In Slovenia, traditional settlement has made sure that settlements are mostly safe from them. But that doesn’t mean the bigger ones can’t threaten them. In the past, such was the case from the Upper Soča, where large avalanches in February 1952 destroyed more than ten residential houses, and nearly twenty of them were damaged and claimed as many as 15 lives. Even then, there were avalanches of wet snow, and the bottom of the valleys reached close to twenty avalanches. There were no similar catastrophic consequences later, not this time in the Bovec region. This year’s flooding of several roads and a few days of road closure cannot be compared to the number of victims and more than ten demolished houses from the 1950s. Of course, it could be much worse if landslides hit vehicles this time. Seven decades ago, the steep slopes in the Upper Soča were mostly bare and overgrown only with grass, which are ideal for triggering avalanches. Due to changes in land use, the slopes have become overgrown in recent decades and a large part of them is now covered by forest, which is very important in inhibiting avalanches. “

Remember that?

“Avalanches are not a major problem in terms of the damage caused, but it is completely different in terms of victims, as we are at the very top in terms of their number due to natural disasters. On average, they claim one to two deaths a year. However, it is necessary to distinguish between avalanches, which are triggered spontaneously, independently of man – such were the last Bovec – and those that are triggered by visitors to the snowy mountains. The latter – when we go to dangerous areas due to poor assessment of the situation – is connected with a large part of accidents due to avalanches. ”

“In the past, several mountain lodges were demolished, and the hut on Grohat pod Raduho even twice. An avalanche in 1909 also destroyed Aljaž’s first home in Vrata, and the same fate befell the first hut in Okrešlje two years earlier. More than a decade ago, in 2009, an avalanche destroyed a hut on Dolič. Landslides can also reach the mountains and endanger shepherds’ homes there. An example is the mountain Kuhinja pod Krnom. They can damage the cableway infrastructure. Let’s just remember the damage to the supporting pillar of the cable car on Kanin a decade ago. “ Landslides, adds dr. Zorn, they also reached the valleys several times in our country, most recently in the winter of 2006, when they caused damage mainly in the Kamnik-Savinja Alps, Jezersko and Logarska valleys.

In winter, road closures in the Alps are therefore a necessary safeguard. “We are also used to the fact that the Vršica road is closed in winter, and this is also the case, as avalanches cover it several times a year, and there are no protective measures on or near it.”

The worst is yet to come

Will there be more avalanches this year due to the thick blanket of snow? “This year, given the amount of snow in the highlands, we can still expect many avalanches. Whether they will reach the valleys is difficult to predict, as several factors must be captured. An analysis of past accidents has shown that most of them happen in the spring months, so there is still a lot going on ahead of us. The spring months are characterized mainly by avalanches of wet snow, but as we can see, this type of avalanche can also occur earlier, depending on weather conditions. Due to its weight, it can travel long distances, erode the soil and destroy vegetation. “

There will be landslides as long as there is snow

What about the increasingly obvious climate change with many weather extremes, how will these affect? “Avalanches will be triggered as long as we have snow. It is true that climate change is shortening snow periods, but this is not entirely true for the highlands. In the last sixties, in our Alps at altitudes between 500 and 1000 meters, the number of days with a snow blanket has been reduced from 30 to almost 60 days, which means that in some places it has more than halved. On the other hand, data for Kredarica at an altitude of just over 2500 m show that this decline was only insignificant. However, due to rising temperatures in the highlands, this may soon change as well. In Kredarica, for example, average annual temperatures have risen by a good two degrees in the last 60 years. “

“By far the most victims of avalanches were in the Alps during the First World War. This is also connected with one of the biggest accidents due to avalanches in our country, which is commemorated every July by the commemoration at the Russian Chapel under Vršič. In March 1916, several avalanches covered the buildings housing Russian prisoners of war and their guards. It is estimated that between one hundred and as many as 300 victims are claimed. A good year later, avalanches again destroyed part of the camp and claimed close to 40 lives. “

But there will also be more extremes. “This year’s conditions show that we can still expect a lot of snow in the highlands. Climate change shows the aforementioned long-term trends, but on the other hand we can expect more extremes in both directions – a record little snow in one year, a record high in another year. At the moment, it is more than five meters high in some parts of the Julian Alps. “

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Before going to the higher hills and mountains, we must not forget about our safety. How do we know when the situation is safe? “There is no complete security. If there is snow, there is also the possibility of avalanches. It is necessary to check at home what kind of situation we can expect. The so-called avalanche or avalanche bulletin, which is published on its website by the Environmental Agency of the Republic of Slovenia, helps us with this. Unfortunately, it is not published every day, nor is its accuracy only at the regional level and not on the scale of the mountain valleys we want to visit. It is therefore necessary to assess the situation on the spot. To this end, we published the Field Snow Manual at our institute last year, as an aid in assessing the risk of triggering avalanches in the field. It is available for free on our websites. It is recommended, if not necessary, that those who visit the mountains in winter attend avalanche protection courses. These, mostly organized by mountain rescuers, take place every winter season, “ concludes Assoc. prof. Dr. Matija Zorn.

Read more interesting content in the new issue of Zarja Jana magazine.

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Zarja Jana

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Source: Svet24.si by novice.svet24.si.

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