As we drove to meet the gun crew I asked Jerry what he thought it would take to start an avalanche cycle to bring things down.
His reply, “Ahhh, probably the last snowflake.”
From an aspiring forecaster’s standpoint, his answer was quite a surprise and one which left me feeling incredibly perplexed. It wasn’t the response I was looking for. I wanted a number. A water equivalent value. I was used to dealing with hard scientific facts and not the last snowflake-style response.
But as I sat in the truck and watched the piled banks of snow pass in a blur, I realized it was the only true answer he could give me. We were both acutely aware that the snowpack couldn’t take much more of a load. Precipitation intensity was elevated, there was significant wind loading, and it had been snowing constantly for 24 hours. If Jerry had said the snowpack would take an additional inch of water or even an additional half an inch, then I would have been able to sit back and relax in the false comfort of scientific reasoning. But the “last snowflake!”