“Weatherwatch: “Season of Fear” and the avalanches of the Alps


The Alps were struck by the worst avalanche season ever, known as the “Winter of Terror.” seventy years ago. The devastation affected parts of Italy, Austria and Switzerland and started after a two-day January snowstorm, adding two meters or more of snowfall to a base that was already twice the seasonal average. Strong winds created drifts that led to unstable snow masses that were already twice the seasonal average. They broke loose in thousands of avalanches, burying whole villages under them in several instances.

According to a report from Vals, Switzerland, more than 200 people died: “Suddenly a dull rolling, then a whistling, crashing, breaking and – darkness in the whole village … at that moment the houses and apartments of entire families became their graves,” The avalanche that swept through the Swiss village of Munter destroyed seven houses and eight barns, as well as the schoolhouse and church, k.k.

The train station and part of the railroad line were swept away in Davos by an avalanche.

Six avalanches struck Andermatt, also in Switzerland, within an hour, killing 13 people…. These terrible events culminated in a major expansion of avalanche barrier building, which proved its value in the places where it was built and avoided much greater loss of life.


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