What would you do in the event of an avalanche? Would you even know what to do?
How many people die in avalanches each year?
Every year in the United States, an average of 28 people will die in an avalanche. While that number seems quite low, you shouldn’t become complacent when you’re near the mountains. One to two Washingtonians die every year because of avalanches. Avalanches can move as fast as a car on the highway, between 60 to 80 miles per hour.
The deadliest avalanche in United States history happened in Washington
Over 100 years ago, a small community was decimated by an avalanche that killed 96 people. Wellington was a small railroad town near present-day Leavenworth. Snow began to accumulate in the Cascade Mountains in 1910 during a blizzard that lasted several days. It was so bad that eleven feet of snow fell in one day. The conditions forced two trains to stop. Both were headed to Seattle from Spokane.
The snow finally stopped on February 28, giving way to rain and wind. But the worst was yet to come. On March 1, a lightning strike shook the Cascades, unleashing a sinister avalanche of unprecedented power. One survivor recalled the lightning storm that preceded the “dull roar” of the avalanche that would crush the two trains. When the snow had settled, 96 people had died while a mere 23 survived.
The town was renamed shortly after to Tye, in an attempt to distance itself from one of the worst natural disasters in United States history. Tye would be abandoned and burnt to the ground in the late 1920s, but you can still visit and see the carnage with your own eyes. To this day, the Wellington avalanche is the deadliest in the history of the United States as well as one of the worst train disasters in our country’s history.