On Tuesday morning, an avalanche swept through the Aspendell community, damaging three homes.
One home was pushed off its foundation.
The other two homes sustained moderate damage in the form of busted out windows and damaged garage doors.
In Aspendell, the storm started as rain before turning to snow and dumping a total of 40” before a break in the action Wednesday.
While a typical Sierra storm has water content of approximately 10%, these latest storms have had water content of up to 30% (described as the amount of water within a column of snow).
The slide occurred within the “East Slope” path.
There were no reported injuries.
Phil Moores – Executive Director of Eastern Sierra Transit Authority – experienced the avalanche first hand.
“When the blast hit me, I ducked because I thought it was just a big wind gust,” said Moores. Ducking for cover is something he’d never done.
“It just shocked me,” he said.
“There were white crystals floating everywhere in the air. I couldn’t see much.” Moores went into his home, closed the door. “I went to the front door, looked out across the street, and the house [across from him] was without walls.”
The wind blast from the avalanche was so strong that it blew out the four by five foot plate glass windows in a neighbor’s living room.
Moores strapped on snowshoes and began the hundred yard trek to the neighbor’s.
It took him thirty minutes.
“The powder was so deep on the street, even with snowshoes on it was still up to my hips,” said Moores.
He made it, accounted for every person and, eventually, animal.
Then, he had to hatch an escape plan. “The road wasn’t plowed and we couldn’t get out,” said Moores. “Thank God the road department did answer our appeal.”
Moores explained that, in times of crisis, some people know how to adjust on their feet and do the right moral and ethical thing.
Others are bound so tightly by the rules that they suffer paralysis of inaction.
For example, Bishop Care Center wouldn’t let Moores 83 year-old neighbor stay in her husband’s room. Even though her husband was there. The care center is not a hotel, they told her.
Others stepped up, like the road department, which helped to dig them out and get them to safety.
Moores hopes this “freebie” disaster – no injuries, no deaths – will be a teaching moment.
When Moores was a kid, a child on a Big Wheel was killed at an intersection. Very quickly, a stop sign was built to prevent another tragedy.
“It shouldn’t come to that,” Moores thought. Death should not be the sole precipitator of change.
“This is an opportunity to make changes,” Moore told me. Things like better communication between the county departments – Moores told me that the road department knew the danger of the avalanche, but the Sheriff didn’t tell them to evacuate – and between departments and residents.
Perhaps grant money could be obtained to craft an expert-guided avalanche plan.
“Knowledge is power,” Moores said. “If people understand risk and how to avoid it, then they’ll do it. Or, they won’t, but at least it’ll be their fault.”