What causes an avalanche and what is the best way to survive a snowstorm?

Here's what you need to know about what causes an avalanche and how to survive a snowstorm.

What causes an avalanche?

An avalanche is a sudden downhill movement of snow and  can be caused by a number of factors.

These include heavy snowfall, steep slopes – which help increase the speed of movement – and vibrations, such as an earthquake or loud noises.

Deforestation can also make the slope less stable and the layering of snow – such as where fresh snow falls on snow which has already turned into ice – can cause an avalanche if it starts to slide.

An avalanche is able to obstruct anything in its path, resulting in roads and railways being blocked, power supplies being cut off, buildings being destroyed and can result in deaths.

If you get caught in an avalanche, it's advised that you "swim" towards the top of the snow to avoid being trapped under debris and attempt to keep one hand above your heard so rescuers can spot you.

If you are trapped under snow, move your face to open a space in front of you and start spitting – according to Mental Floss, the pocket will give you room to breathe and you'll be able to note which direction the spit goes, so you'll know to dig your way out in the opposite direction.

How do you survive a snowstorm?

A snowstorm is described as being a "violent winter storm, combining below freezing temperatures, strong winds and blowing snow which reduces visibility", and lasts longer than three hours.

If you are at home and the storm is about to hit, you should watch the local news and stay up to date with tracking the storm.

You should also stock up on supplies such as medication, food, water, fuel, toilet paper, ensure your first aid kit is stocked and you have extra blankets as well as candles, matches, torches, batteries and make sure your phone is charged.

However, while it's advised to remain indoors during a storm, if you are caught outside when a snowstorm hits, experts advise to stay warm and dry in your vehicle and do not send anyone to get help as venturing out in the snow increases the mortality rate.

If you're caught without a shelter, it's imperative to find something to stay safe through the storm.

Find a cave or an overhang and material to make a shelter while the storm passes.

It's important to stay hydrated – but do not eat the snow, melt it in a container over a fire and drink it as water.

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