LAKE TAHOE, Calif. (AP) — Heather Turping was snowboarding with her boyfriend when she heard someone scream “Avalanche!”
Then Turping, 39, saw “a cloud of snow coming down.”
The avalanche that hit Friday at the Squaw Valley Ski Resort – west of Lake Tahoe in the Sierra Nevada Mountains — caught five people, one day after a snowboarder died there during a blizzard as a winter storm rolled through California.
The Sierra Nevada avalanche Friday afternoon injured two people, one seriously. Three others escaped without being hurt.
Heather Turping saw the massive avalanche passed only a foot in front of her.
A woman screamed that her husband was missing and someone spotted a snowboard poking out of the snow.
“That’s what saved his life,” Turping said.
“I took my gloves off and I helped dig him out,” she said. “When he got uncovered, a ski patroller said, ‘You were under for six minutes.'”
The man wasn’t seriously hurt and was able to snowboard back down the mountain, she said.
The skiers and snowboarders were within areas open to skiing at the time and the guests had been warned of the potential danger, Squaw Valley spokeswoman Liesl Hepburn said.
The resort used explosives and other tools to knock down snow to prevent avalanches throughout the day but the snowfall was heavy, she said.
“We had assessed the area to be safe to open to the public and unfortunately an avalanche did occur after that assessment was made,” Hepburn said.
The avalanche occurred hours after the body of a missing snowboarder was found at the same resort.
Wenyu Zhang, 42, vanished Thursday as the region was hit by a blizzard packing winds gusting to nearly 150 mph over the ridge tops. It dumped 3 feet of snow in the mountains.
A blizzard warning expired Friday but whiteout conditions were still possible around Lake Tahoe Saturday, the National Weather Service said.
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