Two people who were caught in an avalanche while snowmobiling near Seeley Lake have died, according to the Missoula County Sheriff's Office. A third person managed to escape.
The sheriff's office said in Facebook post at 10:14 p.m. on Wednesday that the two riders who were unaccounted for after the slide were found buried and pronounced dead at the scene. SAR crews were able to transport the bodies to the trailhead after several hours of coordinated recovery efforts.
The third rider who was able to call 911 was brought out with search crews and did not need medical assistance.
The names of the deceased will not be released until all family members have had the proper notification. The Sheriff's Office concluded: "Please keep these families in your thoughts and prayers."
(1st REPORT, 3:43 pm) Search and rescue (SAR) crews have been dispatched after receiving a report that several people got caught in an avalanche in the Lake Dinah area several miles northwest of Seeley Lake.
Three people were snowmobiling when they were caught in the avalanche at about 2:15 p.m.; one person managed to escape and call for help.
The Missoula County Sheriff's Office said in a Facebook post that Seeley-Swan SAR, Missoula County SAR and their SAR K9’s, along with MESI and Seeley Fire are staging an operation to search for the two people.
The Sheriff's Office added a few hours later: "Search and rescue crews are making their way to the avalanche affected area, but weather conditions are extremely tough. The National Weather Service has predicted that search conditions through this evening into tonight will include wet snow and windy conditions. Wind speeds are expected to reach up to 60 miles per hour. The wet nature of the snow will result in compacting accumulation, but an additional 6 to 10 inches of snow are expected tonight with 1 to 3 inches on Thursday. Please keep these folks in your thoughts as they head up into tough conditions."
We will update you as we get more information.
The Sheriff's Office also warned that avalanche danger is considered high in several areas of Missoula County, according to the National Weather Service:
- Affected Area...Southern Swan, southern Missions, Rattlesnake, and the central and southern Bitterroot mountains.
- Reason/Impacts...New heavy snow, warm temperatures and strong winds are creating very dangerous avalanche conditions. The new snow is stressing the weak layers in the snowpack.
- Very dangerous avalanche conditions. Travel in avalanche terrain is not recommended. Avalanches may run long distances and can run into mature forests, valley floors, or flat terrain. Avoid avalanche path runout zones.