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Washington avalanches leave 1 dead, 1 missing

| Sunday, April 14, 2013, 10:00 p.m.
This photo taken Saturday, April 13, 2013 shows Won Shin, 56, of Mukilteo, Wash. Shin was among the group of 12 snowshoers who were on Red Mountain at the time of the avalanche. He survived. (AP Photo/The Seattle Times, Ken Lambert)

SEATTLE — A pair of spring avalanches killed a female snowshoer and buried a 60-year-old male hiker, for whom rescuers indefinitely suspended a search on Sunday, authorities in Washington state said.

The avalanches on Saturday struck separate groups hiking in the Cascade Mountains east of Seattle.

Kenny Kramer, director of Northwest Weather and Avalanche Center, said between 20 and 30 inches of snow fell during the weekend, and the center warned of dangerous avalanche conditions.

“We had a considerable danger,” the meteorologist said. “We were expecting a lot of snow.”

All that new snow was weakly attached to the old snow crust, making it more unstable, Kramer said.

Sgt. Katie Larson with the King County Sheriff's Office said a team of rescuers worked through the night in blizzard-like conditions to carry the female snowshoer off Red Mountain just after midnight.

Medics confirmed that she had died when they reached the base of the mountain, Larson said.

“The conditions yesterday were horrific,” Larson said Sunday. “It took 25 rescuers about five to six hours” to bring her off the mountain in a sled.

The man, whom Larson described as “a very experienced hiker,” was with two other men when the avalanche hit Granite Mountain, carrying them 1,279 feet at a top speed of 53 mph “in less than a minute.” That detail was available because at least one snowshoer was carrying a GPS device.

Two, in their 30s, were injured but emerged from the snow; their companion did not, Larson said.

About 50 rescuers with dog teams searched for the man. But they battled horrible conditions, Larson said, and wound up suspending the search about 8 p.m.

Overnight, the mountain got another “big dump of snow,” making the conditions too dangerous to send searchers back in, she said.

“Until conditions improve, we've suspended the search indefinitely,” Larson said.

Won Shin, 56, of Mukilteo, Wash., was among the group of 12 snowshoers who were on Red Mountain at the time of the avalanche.

He told The Seattle Times that when the avalanche hit, “the only thing I thought about was just, ‘Get out of here.' I've never felt anything like that.”

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