On Friday about 1 p.m., a large slab of snow broke loose from a hillside above Lake Creek Road, north of Ketchum. The avalanche ran to the ground and slammed into a house at the base of the hill.
It broke three windows and part of the exterior wall of a bedroom, ran through the bedroom and poured through a double doorway into the living room. The homeowner, Jan Aronson, said she was sitting in the living room talking on the phone when the slide occurred.
“I heard a huge explosion and saw a massive amount of glass shards and wood shards coming right at me,” Aronson said.
“If it had happened at night, forget it,” she added, referring to her chance of surviving had she been asleep in the bedroom.
Aronson’s first thought was for her dog, Hera, an 8-year-old Doberman that had been sleeping on her bed in front of Aronson’s chair. The dog bed was now buried by snow and debris. As Aronson began digging frantically, she saw blood in the snow.
“I was getting hysterical because I thought it was hers,” she said.
Only later did she realize that the blood was her own, that her hands were being cut by the pieces of broken glass and wood.
Aronson called 911 and was told to leave the house immediately. She did so and went to her neighbors’ house across the street. About 45 minutes later, she was told that Hera had been found alive in a room on the second floor.
“I did not see her leave her bed,” Aronson said. “She must have heard the rumbling before a human could.”
Aronson then left for St. Luke’s Wood River Medical Center to get her cuts stitched up.
She said she has lived in the house for about five years, and the hillside above it had not slid during that time until Friday. She said the area was not included in Blaine County’s Avalanche Overlay District when she bought the house, though it has been added since then.
“An engineer will come and assess the damage,” Aronson said. “I will hire an architect to make it avalanche-proof and up to code.”
In the meantime, she faces a massive cleanup project.
Over the weekend, an excavator from Lunceford Excavation was digging snow out of the house, while several vehicles from Servpro, a disaster restoration service, were parked outside. Erik Jensen, general manager of Servpro in Ketchum, said the cleanup and subsequent reconstruction are likely to take months. He said his crew had cleared snow off the roof to reduce the load on the structure and was building a temporary exterior wall before beginning to clean up the interior.
Aronson said she mostly just feels glad that she and Hera survived and that no one else was in the house when the slide occurred.
“I am incredibly grateful to the first-responders who came,” she said. “The firefighters were incredible, and the police were very sensitive.”