Expert says ‘roof-a-lanches’ likely to continue in Utah this season

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PARK CITY, Utah – The sidewalk and part of the street in front of the Historical Centennial House in Park City are blocked off after nearly a thousand pounds of snow slid off a roof.

Park City ordinances only say that people have a responsibility to keep the snow on their own property. But on Wednesday when this snow fell onto Main Street and on the sidewalk, the city got involved.

Park City is all too familiar with the tragedy that sliding snow can cause. Last week it was what took the life of Midway man John Henry. He was hit by a 200-pound sheet of ice while washing windows.

“So these are roof-a-lanches," said Craig Gordon of the Utah Avalanche Center. "They’re simply the entire season’s snowpack, warms up, and it unpredictably just crashes off of people’s roofs."

Gordon says what triggers them is increasing temperatures, rain, and a number of nights without a “good solid refreeze of the snowpack.”

“Well you gotta figure this is the entire season's snowpack right, and it’s all condensed within a couple of feet, so there’s not only snow, but there’s big dense chunks of ice and it's incredibly dense, it’s incredibly heavy, and this is definitely a situation we don’t want to be playing on or underneath,” Gordon said.