What Are The Effects Of An Avalanche?

Avalanches can cause road closures.
Avalanches can cause road closures.

An avalanche is a type of disaster where a mass of snow moves downslope at great speeds. The causes of avalanches can be natural or human factors. The strength of an avalanche varies widely and so do the extent of the damage caused by the disaster. Here is a list of some of the effects of an avalanche:

Death of People and Animals

Asphyxiation is the most common cause of death by an avalanche. People and animals buried deep in the snow suffocate to death due to a lack of oxygen. The force of an avalanche can also break and crush bones easily. People can also freeze to death when buried under several feet of snow. If found within 15 minutes of being buried under an avalanche, there is a high chance for the victim to survive. However, the survival probability decreases with time. Some of the world's deadliest avalanches have caused the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people. 

Property Damage

A powerful avalanche can completely destroy buildings and other constructions that come in its way. Houses, shacks, cabins, and even the ski resorts can be ruined during this disaster.

Transportation Disruptions

Avalanches can completely disconnect mountain settlements higher up from the rest of the world. The railroads and roads might have to close down due to the damage caused by the avalanche to the transport infrastructure. Roads might be covered in thick snow from the avalanche that makes the movement of vehicles impossible for days before the snow is cleared off. Cars and trains traveling in the area during the avalanche can also be wiped off or buried under the snow.

Communication and Utility Disruptions

Avalanches can wreak havoc in the lives of the people living in and around the disaster area. Power lines can be broken so that people go without electricity for several days. Telephone and cable lines can also be disrupted leaving people with no way to communicate with others or seek help. Such issues can also delay rescue missions. Oil, gas, and water pipes may burst, leak, or be crushed leading to a lack of supply of these vital requirements.

Crop Failure

If the snow from an avalanche accumulates on farmland located at the lower altitudes, it can completely destroy the crop causing a crop failure and heavy economic losses for the farm.

Flash Floods

If the snow and ice falling as an avalanche manage to disrupt the flow of a river or displace water from a lake, the water from these water bodies can flood nearby areas within moments of the avalanche. Such sudden floods are called flash floods and they can be extremely dangerous in nature.

Adverse Impacts on the Local Economy

Powerful avalanches cause great damage to property and life. Immediate rescue operations and post-disaster management funds have to be arranged by the government of the affected area. Many local businesses, especially those engaged in the tourism industry suffer greatly. Private property worth millions is also lost during the disaster.


More in Environment