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Woman dead, search suspended for man missing in Washington avalanches

NBC News

Sheriff's department at scene of avalanche.

One woman has now been declared dead while a 60-year-old man is still missing after a pair of avalanches  ripped through the mountains Saturday near Snoqualmie Pass in Washington state, authorities said.

The search for the missing man was suspended indefinitely Saturday night because of poor weather in the area, located about 50 miles east of Seattle, the King Country Sheriff's office said.

Authorities said three men hiking to the summit of Granite Mountain, near exit 47 on I-90, were swept away in an avalanche that hit a little before 1 p.m. Saturday. NBC station KING in Seattle said the avalanche carried the men about 1,000 feet. Two of the three hikers were able to get free from the snow, but the third member of their group, a 60-year-old man, was not located and remains missing.

Snoqualmie Pass, located along I-90, is a popular skiing and snowshoeing destination.

In a separate incident Saturday afternoon, a woman died after being buried under five feet of snow when an avalanche hit near exit 52 off I-90. The incident occurred not long after the first avalanche in the area, authorities said.

A group of hikers snowshoeing in the area was caught in the avalanche Saturday. The members of that group were able to "self rescue," but realized the woman, who was walking nearby, was missing, officials said.

The group found the woman 45 minutes later buried in the snow and dug her out.

Authorities said the woman was "not moving and somewhat conscious" was she was rescued. Rescuers hiked for two hours to reach the woman and brought her out of the wilderness on a sled, authorities said. Medics eventually declared the woman dead.

The mountains in the area have been hit by spring snow in recent days, with a ski area at Snoqualmie Pass reporting 11 inches of new snow.

The Northwest Weather and Avalanche Center reported considerable avalanche danger above 3,000 feet Sunday. Westbound lanes of the Interstate-90 highway over the pass were closed Saturday night because of heavy snow.