Snow Fall: The Avalanche at Tunnel Creek

avalancheThe New York Times and John Branch have published the first part of a five part multimedia series about a terrible avalanche in the Cascade Mountains and the 20 or so skiiers that got sucked into its vortex that fateful day.

The very thing the 16 skiers and snowboarders had sought — fresh, soft snow — instantly became the enemy. Somewhere above, a pristine meadow cracked in the shape of a lightning bolt, slicing a slab nearly 200 feet across and 3 feet deep. Gravity did the rest.

Snow shattered and spilled down the slope. Within seconds, the avalanche was the size of more than a thousand cars barreling down the mountain and weighed millions of pounds. Moving about 7o miles per hour, it crashed through the sturdy old-growth trees, snapping their limbs and shredding bark from their trunks.

The avalanche, in Washington’s Cascades in February, slid past some trees and rocks, like ocean swells around a ship’s prow. Others it captured and added to its violent load.

Somewhere inside, it also carried people. How many, no one knew.

It’s not only an amazing story, but the presentation and design of the article is something to behold. There are no ads, the content fills the entire browser, there are topographical maps of the mountains, video interviews with survivors, etc. This is perhaps the most impressive piece of journalism, web design, and presentation of 2012.

It makes me wish more publications would go this route.

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