1 child, 2 adults pulled alive from Mount Jumbo avalanche
8 hours ago • By Kim Briggeman
The mother of an 8-year-old boy buried in an avalanche that hit a residential neighborhood of the lower Rattlesnake Valley is led away from the scene shortly after the slide occurred Friday. The boy was found alive and extricated from the snow nearly an hour later, and was admitted to St. Patrick Hospital.
An avalanche that swept down Mount Jumbo shortly after 4 p.m. Friday demolished a two-story house in the lower Rattlesnake Valley and buried three people, all of whom were pulled from the snow and wreckage alive.
Snowboarders who were on the slope above the slide were reportedly interviewed and released by law enforcement officers. It was not disclosed if they’re believed to have caused the avalanche, which roared down a steep, narrow gorge and down Holly Street before finally stopping in the middle of Van Buren Street.
Rescuers found and extricated an 8-year-old boy from the deep snow after more than an hour’s frantic search by some 50 emergency responders with avalanche probes and shovel-wielding volunteers.
The boy had apparently been playing outside a home at the southeast corner of Van Buren and Holly when the slide struck. He was found buried under snow between the house and a high wooden fence roughly 10 feet away.
A smattering of applause broke out as the boy was carried by stretcher to an ambulance. He was admitted to St. Patrick Hospital.
An hour later, as frigid daylong winds and swirling snow continued to buffet the valley, an elderly man was located and rescued from the remains of the house at 1440 Harrison St., a north-south street that runs parallel to Van Buren at the western foot of Jumbo.
He was responsive and appeared to have no broken bones, according to a rescuer who said a fallen chimney had created an air pocket roughly 5 feet by 2 feet that saved the man from suffocation. Neighbors identified him as Fred Allendorf, a retired University of Montana professor who taught genetics and conservation biology.
Night fell and portable floodlights were trucked in to illuminate the search site as a trained avalanche crew shoveled through the wreckage. Another hour passed and a woman was pulled from the ruins of the house. She lay in what a law enforcement officer on the scene said was a similar air hole. Incredibly, she too was breathing.
The woman was en route to the hospital at 7:20 p.m., more than three hours after the slide.
Neither Allendorf’s condition nor that of the rescued woman, his wife Michel Colville, were released Friday night. A neighbor said the two-story home had been recently remodeled.
Jay Vigneault lives in the apartment next door.
“We were sitting there watching ‘Thor’ and all of a sudden we hear a rumbling,” a shaken Vigneault said as he watched the rescue efforts from the middle of Van Buren, where the avalanche finally came to rest. “I thought, ‘Oh, they’re bringing the plows up here.’ But that’s not a plow when the whole house shakes.”
“We’ve got snow in our back closet, so we’re extremely lucky,” Vigneault added.
Cheryl McMillan, who lives on Harrison Street a couple of houses down from the Allendorf home, said she heard a boom but at first couldn’t identify its source.
“Then, when we looked again, we saw that their whole house was kind of no longer there, at least the top floor,” McMillan said.
She and her husband, Archie McMillan, have lived in the neighborhood for 31 years, and they never have seen an avalanche. “Never ever ever ever.”
Kelly Haroldson has a laundry in a cluster of three houses across Holly Street, just north of the demolished home.
“I felt the boom and the rattle. It took out the gas furnace, so we have gas leaks,” she said.
A strong odor of gas permeated the area throughout the rescue efforts. The avalanche nearly took out a power pole with a transformer, which wound up propped in a tree to the west.
NorthWestern Energy crews worked to find a gas main under Van Buren and to disconnect electricity in the near vicinity. The whipping wind and increasing cold made the evening uncomfortable for rescuers, onlookers, search and rescue crews, city firemen and police and sheriff’s department officers. Missoula County Sheriff Carl Ibsen helped directed traffic near the scene on Van Buren.
Rescuers threw boards and tree debris into a huge pile during their searches.
Late Friday night, the threat of further slides in one of Missoula’s snowiest winters in memory prompted Missoula police and sheriff’s department officers as well as fire personnel to go door to door in the lower Rattlesnake neighborhood between Richard and Holly streets.
They told residents of extremely unstable snow conditions and informed them of the risk of further avalanches.
“Although there is not a mandatory evacuation order in place, residents are encouraged to consider the risk when deciding whether or not to leave the area,” said Missoula Police Sgt. Travis Welsh.
The Missoula County Sheriff’s Office issued an avalanche advisory for the city’s foothills, including Mount Jumbo, Mount Sentinel, Waterworks Hill and other terrain north of Missoula.
“Recent heavy snow load and high winds are complicating the situation,” the advisory stated. “Any open snow-covered terrain that is steeper than 30 degrees is potentially hazardous.”
Recreation in those areas is also highly discouraged. The south zone of Mount Jumbo, including the slide area, is in the midst of its annual closure that began Dec. 1 and ends March 15.
Welsh said it was believed that all humans affected by the avalanche were accounted for, but personnel remained in the area into the night to monitor conditions and make sure there were no others missing.
The Red Cross established a shelter for any residents who may be displaced at Missoula’s First Baptist Church, 308 W. Pine St. Pruyn Veterinary Hospital, 2501 S. Russell St., offered to take in 10 to 15 cats and 10 to 15 dogs – more if needed – while their humans stay at the shelter.
Neighbors search for Rattlesnake avalanche victims' belongings
Three survivors remain hospitalized
2 hours ago • By Rob Chaney
Cheryl McMillan stands next to the remains of the home of Fred Allendorf and Michel Colville on Saturday afternoon. Both Allendorf and Colville survived because of air pockets caused by debris, which kept them from suffocating.
The avalanche that rocketed down the west face of Mount Jumbo on Friday afternoon was probably going 120 mph when it obliterated Fred Allendorf and Michel Colville’s house at the base of the hill.
An all-neighborhood rescue crew recovered the couple, and 8-year-old Phoenix Scoles-Coburn, after hours of digging in the snow and debris. All three remained hospitalized Saturday.
A snowboarder likely triggered the slide near the summit of Jumbo, which was primed for trouble by a mid-week warm spell followed by the first serious blizzard Missoula had experienced since 1997.
“All it was waiting for was a trigger, and we got that with the snowboarder,” said West Central Montana Avalanche Center director Steve Karkanen. “He was on a slab probably 2 or 3 feet deep. It collapsed with a whoomp and he started to go for a ride. He got caught in it for a while, but got free.”
The snow slab channeled into a shallow vertical gully aimed directly at the intersection of Holly and Harrison streets in the lower Rattlesnake neighborhood. Karkanen said it was probably moving at least 80 mph after its first 2 or 3 seconds, and sped up as it hit lower slopes. Karkanen’s inclinometer measured the hillside angle just above Allendorf’s house at 36 degrees, with angles of 40 degrees or more farther up.
“That’s certainly steep enough for a slide,” Karkanen said. “I think it came from a catchment basin all the way at the top, just below the ridgeline.”
Allendorf and Colville were inside their home and Scoles-Coburn was playing nearby outside when the slide hit. It tore the house off its foundation and plowed the mangled remains about 50 feet into the intersection. A rental house to the south was still standing, but had all its windows blown out. An SUV was shoved up against the house roof and buried, leaving only its broken rear window showing. An apartment building on the north side had everything on its south lawn swept away. The remains of the Allendorf house were mixed with a smashed garage belonging to a third home on the west side of Harrison Street, which marked the end of the runout zone.
“We heard this huge whump,” neighbor Cheryl McMillan said of the 4 p.m. incident. “At first we thought it was just snow falling off the roof. But it was also more like a roar. It didn’t last very long.”
Cheryl’s son Caleb looked up the Mount Jumbo slope and saw a snowboarder walking down, carrying his board. Looking farther, he noticed the Allendorf house was gone.
Dozens of neighbors converged on the wreckage within minutes and started looking for survivors. Missoula Fire Department and other agencies soon had almost 50 personnel on the scene. The air filled with the smell of natural gas from broken service lines. The debris pile knocked a power line loose, dropping its wires right across the middle of the runout zone.
“I’ve never seen so many probe poles in one place,” said Tarn Ream, a neighbor and former student of Allendorf’s. The boy was found pinned next to a fence on the west side of Harrison Street about an hour after the search began. At first feared dead, he was soon reported in critical condition at the St. Patrick Hospital intensive care unit.
Fred Allendorf was found an hour later, trapped beneath the remains of his brick chimney. The retired University of Montana biology professor was able to talk with rescuers, and told them Colville was standing to his east when the slide hit.
Ream said unfortunately, the place Allendorf last saw Colville was under the fallen power lines. Rescuers had to stay away from that spot until the electricity could be shut off. At times, they were even using the area to deposit snow dug from other places. Colville was dug out about three hours after the slide hit.
All three survived thanks to getting caught in air pockets in the debris that kept them from suffocating. Avalanche snow congeals hard as rock just seconds after it stops moving.
St. Patrick Hospital spokeswoman JoAnn Hoven said Allendorf had been upgraded to serious by Saturday afternoon. Colville remained in critical condition Saturday, while Scoles-Coburn was greatly improved and in fair condition.
The slide left the building looking like it had been ground through a snowblower. On Saturday, friends and neighbors dug for belongings in a snow berm 15 feet above the street surface. Bits of window curtains hung in tree branches 10 feet above that. And one big fir tree had branches snapped off more than 30 feet above its base.
In the snow, shards of construction lumber poked out in all directions. Cinder blocks lay cracked or smashed. A camper van had its sleeping roof sheared off. The top room of the three-level house was sitting cockeyed in the snow.
“They had just put the upper story on this summer,” McMillan said. Colville had a home business making craftware. McMillan was shoveling through the snow, finding hanks of yarn, sea shells and other materials.
“I’m also looking for their cat,” McMillan said. But another digger said she’d seen a policeman leaving the scene holding a small bag on Friday evening – possibly the cat’s remains.
“Once in a while, we’d see a little something slide down the hill, but nothing this big,” said McMillan, who’s lived on Harrison Street for 31 years. “There’s a woman who’s lived here 50 years, and she said she’s never seen anything like this.”
Ream was looking for particular things in the hardening snow.
“He was one of my huge inspirations at the University (of Montana),” Ream said of Allendorf. “I took every one of his classes. Fred kept notebooks – he was always scribbling in them. I’ve found a couple of those, and I’m drying them personally.”
“I think I’ve found a closet,” Jeanne Twohig said from another spot in the pile. “There’s something that looks like furniture, and hangers.”
She started pulling shirts and coats out of the snow. Another digger found a floor rug. Torn books, cracked CDs, and an occasional bottle of frozen wine appeared in a high-speed archaeological excavation.
“You don’t know where to start, so you just start,” Twohig said. “We all feel anything we can piece back together for them is to the good.”
Missoula Police officers were still investigating the cause of the incident on Saturday and were not available for comment. Anyone with information about the slide cause is asked to call Det. Dean Chrestenson at (406) 552-6705 or Det. Guy Baker at (406) 552-6284.
Avalanche danger remains in Missoula
Avalanche danger remains a worry for Missoula homes along Mount Jumbo and Mount Sentinel. After a brief clearing Saturday afternoon and Sunday, the National Weather Service predicts a new storm system moving into the area Sunday evening. This front will bring about 4 inches of new snow, or possibly freezing rain.
“We’ve got a lot of arctic air, with warm air above it,” NWS meteorologist Dave Noble said on Saturday. “Eventually that arctic air will scour out, but before that happens, we’re going to see dicey road conditions.”
To add insult to injury, three days of high temperatures in the mid-teens and 20s will get replaced on Wednesday by a spurt into the upper-30s.
“Later this week, lower elevation flooding could be a concern after the snow from these recent storms,” Noble said. “That warm air, with a little rain on top of the snow, could give us some issues.”
The West Central Avalanche Center listed the danger level as “high” for Saturday on any open slopes steeper than 30 degrees in the Rattlesnake, southern Swan and Mission mountains, as well as the slopes of Mount Jumbo and Mount Sentinel in the Missoula Valley. Avalanche danger in the Bitterroot Mountains was rated “considerable.”
“Many people reported to us on Friday that they triggered wind slabs and experienced collapse and fracture propagation in areas loaded by the wind on Mount Sentinel,” Karkanen said. “It’s been many years since Missoula has seen a full-on blizzard with this much snow. High winds are expected again today and will continue to load these low-elevation slopes. Please respect these conditions and avoid Mount Jumbo and the steeper slopes of Mount Sentinel for a few days.”
Missoula Mayor John Engen ordered all of the city-owned land on Mount Jumbo and Mount Sentinel closed to public recreation until conditions change.
On Feb 28 an avalanche swept through the Lower Rattlesnake in Missoula, MT, destroying homes and burying four people, including Coral Scoles (10 years old) who was able to get herself out quickly and her brother Phoenix Scoles (8 years old.) He was buried for over 45 minutes and miraculously recovered by local volunteers, Search and Rescue and emergency responders.
Living up to his name, Phoenix is doing well.
Moments like this define a community-- hundreds of people running TOWARDS an accident, rather than away. People working into the night to find the three victims, all of whom somehow were trapped in air pockets that kept them alive until rescue, up to 3 hours.
But now there is a secondary avalanche to contend with-- bills.
Phoenix and Coral's family is hurt, traumatized, lost their rental, and have no rental insurance. Their mom is a student at the University, set to graduate in May. She is a single mom (recently engaged to Casey Greene) who is currently injured as well. Help is needed for expenses, a new rental and the gift of time to heal. We want her to graduate, we want the kids to recover. They need us to pitch in so they can more than survive, so they can focus on each other and the task of dealing with this traumatic event. This will take both time and money.
This family needs our help to dig out again.
Pitch in. Dig deep.
Let's run towards this, together.
Spread the love: To help the other avalanche victims (a man and woman with multiple injuries) there is a bank account for donations that has been set up for the Allendorf Family Fund at any branch of the Missoula Federal Credit Union. For information, call the Credit Union at (406) 523-3300. For updates on Fred Allendorf and Michel Colville you can go to www.caringbridge.org
2h Investigators: Snowboarder likely triggered avalanche that buried 3 people in Missoula, Mont - @NBCNews
Snowboarder Caused Montana Avalanche That Buried Three
A snowboarder triggered the avalanche that buried three people — including an 8-year-old boy — in a home in a residential neighborhood of Missoula, Mont., investigators said Saturday.
St. Patrick Hospital identified two of the victims: Fred Allendorf, 66, a retired biology professor, and his wife, Michel Jo Colville, 68, an artist. The hospital told NBC News that Colville remained in critical condition, while Allendorf had been upgraded to serious condition.
The 8-year-old boy, identified as Phoenix Scoles, was listed in fair condition and was expected to recover.
Police, fire officials and search-and-rescue crews from around the region worked for more than three hours to recover the three after the wave of snow washed over two homes on Holly Street in Missoula's Rattlesnake Valley neighborhood about 4 p.m. (6 p.m. ET) Friday. Rescuers said Saturday that the victims were able to survive only because of air pockets in the debris.
The West Central Montana Avalanche Center said the incident was caused when a snowboarder in a restricted area near the top of Mount Jumbo disturbed a layer of packed snow resting on looser snow beneath it. The snow rapidly tumbled down the mountain, gathering speed and bulk in what the center called a slab avalanche — the most dangerous kind.
"That continuous snowfall kind of keeps the snowpack at its tipping point, or breaking point, where it just takes the added weight of a skier or snowmobiler to tip the balance, and you get an avalanche," said Mark Staples, an avalanche specialist with the Gallatin National Forest Avalanche Center.
Authorities were investigating, and the snowboarder hadn't been identified or charged Saturday evening.
The Missoula Valley, Mount Jumbo and Mount Sentinel remained under a high avalanche danger advisory Saturday, indicating that natural avalanches were possible and that further human-triggered avalanches were likely.
No mandatory evacuations had been ordered, but many families had vacated on their own. Missoula police told NBC station KECI that they were going door to door to warn other residents of the danger.
These aren't words that go together. It was like one of those tabloid headlines, you know, where the joke was that they pulled random words out of buckets - a noun, an adjective, verb, etc....
Remember a few years back there was a slow ice glacier that pushed out of one of the Great Lakes (Michigan?) and crushed a house's front in? Let's NOT get used to this!
"Blaming the snowboarders" Piffle!
If I get your meaning...not sure...you are saying that people shouldn't build houses there? Or are you saying there is no avalanche danger within the city limits of Missoula? If so, have you seen Missoula? People like to build their houses in beautiful places, until they aren't so beautiful anymore and nature wins.
But yes, I'd blame the selfish, brainless snowboarders. They were playing in a restricted avalanche zone and likely caused the near deaths of 4 people plus hundreds of thousands in damages.
Just a comment that the bizarre weather swings recently are causing words to show up in the same sentences and even phrases that don't belong together in our normal experience. It's a lexicon thing.
Blaming kids for snowboarding is a misdirection to the minute (very small) while ignoring the huge change taking place around us. Yes, they do cause vibrations. But what on earth are people doing living in a avalanche zone? Perhaps this is a new and unexpected zoning.
Missoula isn't such a bad place if you can handle the countless miles of strip malls and car dealerships that are probably emptying out now like in so many cities. I wouldn't call it exactly uglier than most other mid-sized cities. It has a charming downtown area and even a souvenir shop for aging Robert Redford fans.
In-city avalanche? Very funny. Hope we don't hear many more jokes like this.
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