City Emergency Program Manager advises for winter weather safety

    An avalanche reduction in Thane (2021)

    Juneau, Alaska (KINY) - There are ways to stay safe this winter, whether it be in the backcountry or in the comfort of your own home.

    Tom Mattice, the City's Emergency Program Manager, spoke about ways to be prepared.

    "We recognize that southeast Alaska gets diverse winter weather. Sometimes when winter storms approach we might not see a barge for a week or two. So people should always have at least seven days of food at their home and always have a go bag packed in case something should happen at their home that includes their medications and prescriptions and other things like that. But most of the time the barges come in and we're good. So it's the rest of the stuff we have to worry about. Icy sidewalks, too much snow, slick roads, too much snow leads to avalanches and can also lead to mudslides."

    Mattice shared the city's response in lieu of a mudslide or avalanche.

    "We have a lot of search and rescue teams and we have a lot of responders that attend to avalanche events. Whether that happens in the urban interface or in the backcountry. Most events start with a call to 911. And that's going to alert not only the police department but also the fire department. Fire Department has special teams units who specialize in those kinds of things. So it doesn't matter whether it's a mudflow or an avalanche, we're gonna start our process. When we need additional help, we're gonna go to outside resources like Seadogs, and Juneau Mountain Rescue. and Juneau Ski Patrol; especially those avalanches occur in the backcountry environment where those people are very well trained and move fast and get the job done. Save lives. But what's really important for people to recognize is that the person in your party, typically who's going to be the one to save your life, people need to be responsible. They need to train for avalanche rescue. They need to practice with avalanche safety first if they're gonna go into the backcountry and they need to always be wearing gear and be with a partner. A lot of what we do in avalanches unfortunately is collect bodies. So what we really need people to do is stay out of the avalanches, be aware when conditions are heightened, avoid avalanche areas, and spot your partners. If something does occur, have a practiced ability to survive and protect your partner. Get practiced on digging your own holes and making your own decisions. If people are going in the backcountry, they need to develop a practiced eye."

    He added where to go to stay up to date, as well as where to go to report something you see or hear that could pose a threat.

    "Next time we get a good snowstorm here in Juneau, the avalanche forecasts will be kicking off for the season. You'll be able to see a daily avalanche forecast for the urban areas here, the Coastal Alaska Avalanche Center also has an observations page where the public can go in and tell people what they're seeing as well. So that's a place for people to share information that leads to more backcountry safety and what people are seeing out there on the hill. Or my number's 907-209-9207 if it's a larger event most definitely. If it mixes with the urban environment, we want to hear about it. When it comes to small avalanches and backcountry avalanches, people should also feel free to share those with the Coastal Alaska Avalanche Center, which is a great place for people to share observations and talk about conditions and what they're seeing out in the hills."

    There are upcoming safety events throughout the winter found through the Coastal Alaska Avalanche Center.

    Mattice also encouraged people to give themselves extra time for travel, especially on days with lots of ice around the community.

    Keep extra warm clothes in a vehicle in case of emergency.

    "We're all in a rush, but that can add to the problem. Be patient, do your shoveling, appreciate your neighbors, and love and respect."

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