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Avalanche Advisory

Turnagain Area Avalanche Advisory
Wednesday, March 13th 2019 7:00 am by Heather Thamm
ARCHIVED ADVISORY - All advisories expire after 24 hours from the posting date/time.
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The Bottom Line

The avalanche danger will rise to HIGH danger above 2000 ft by this evening for Turnagain Pass, Girdwood, and Portage Valley. Human triggered avalanches 1-3 ft deep are likely this afternoon and large natural avalanches will become more likely as snow totals increase. Below 2000 ft expect storm slabs to increase to 1+ feet thick by this afternoon. Below 1000 ft the avalanche danger is CONSIDERABLE where wet-loose avalanche are possible or a natural avalanche from above could run later in the day. Cautious route-finding and conservative terrain choices are essential today, and travel is not recommended in avalanche terrain by this evening. Any obvious clues like whumpfing, shooting cracks, and natural avalanches will be red flag warning to stay out of avalanche terrain.

PORTAGE/PLACER VALLEY: Natural avalanches are possible today that could send debris to valley floors. Areas with steep slopes and avalanche terrain above you, such as the Byron Glacier Trail, should be avoided.

JOHNSON PASS/SUMMIT LAKE: There is a shallow snowpack with a generally poor structure. Strong winds and new snow today will be adding stress to the snowpack. In addition to storm slabs a human could overload buried weak layers, producing an unexpected large slab avalanche.

LOST LAKE: Dangerous avalanche conditions are expected in the Lost Lake and Seward regions as well 2-3 feet of new snow and strong winds.


 Show the Complete North American Avalanche Danger Scale
4 High Alpine / Above 2,500' Travel Advice: Very dangerous avalanche conditions. Travel in avalanche terrain not recommended.
4 High Treeline / 1,000'-2,500' Travel Advice: Very dangerous avalanche conditions. Travel in avalanche terrain not recommended.
3 Considerable Below Treeline / Below 1,000' Travel Advice: Dangerous avalanche conditions. Careful snowpack evaluation, cautious routefinding and conservative decision-making essential.
Avalanche Problem 1

Storm Slabs

Almost Certain
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Likely
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Unlikely

Chance

Historic
Very Large
Large
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Size

An active weather pattern continues for Eastern Turnagain Arm and another powerful storm is bringing strong winds and heavy snow to our region today. The National Weather Service has issued a Special Weather Statement due to 2-3 ft of snow expected in the mountains of Girdwood, Turnagain Pass and Moose Pass by Friday. Overnight Portage Valley has already seen 0.6 inches SWE (mix of rain and snow) and Turnagain Pass snow stake has ~4 in of new snow overnight. Today 12 inches of snow is expected for Turnagain Pass and Girdwood by early evening and another 1-2 ft of snow is possible overnight. Strong ridgetop winds 30-40 mph from Northeast will continue through the day and build into the 60s mph and gusts in the 80s mph by this evening. This means the avalanche hazard will be increasing throughout the day and natural avalanches will be more likely as today’s storm progresses. The more snow that falls the greater the avalanche hazard. With such strong winds storm slabs could grow to 1-2 ft in the alpine before dark. Below 2000 ft where a stout crust has formed storm slabs could be easily triggered on this slick bed surface as snowfall totals increase. Avoid all avalanche terrain if you see any natural avalanches and be prepared to end your day early due to increasing danger. 

Persistent Slabs: To compound today’s avalanche hazard, there is also weak snow (facets and buried surface hoar) buried under 2-3 ft of new snow from this weekend. Yesterday we heard about a skier partially buried in an avalanche between Placer and Grandview at around 4000 ft on NW aspect. According to a witness in the area the crown was 3 ft deep by 300 ft wide and the skier was partial buried, but okay. This is a good reminder that the size of the avalanche hazard is increasing from large to very large with the addition of more snow and strong wind today. This poor structure is most concerning above 2000 ft where a stout crust formed on Monday night.

South of Turnagain in Summit Lake a variety of old weak layers in the mid and base of the snowpack. The Southerly storm track direction is expected to impact Summit Lake with up to 1-2 ft of new snow by Friday. This wasn’t the case last weekend where only a few inches fell. Be aware that more uncertainty exists in this zone for triggering dangerous avalanche in a variety of old weak layers, and rapid loading from new snow and strong winds could also cause natural avalanches by this evening.

Wet Snow: A mix if rain and snow is expected below 1000 ft. In Portage and Placer Valley where above freezing temperatures mid-day could cause heavy rain, loose-wet avalanches are possible today in lower elevations.

 

Storm totals through Friday. This map is referring to how much water weight is expected for the storm. For example Turnagain Pass is expected to get 2.6 inches of water weight which equals ~ 2.5-3 feet of snow.

 

 

Today's storm could overload an older weak layer deeper in the snowpack. Stability tests this week have been showing consistent propagation on buried surface hoar and facets 1.5-3 ft below the surface. 


Mountain Weather

Yesterday: Skies were mostly clear in the morning becoming cloudy by late afternoon. Ridge top winds from the NE were Light becoming 15-25 mph by early afternoon. Temperature remained in low to mid 20s F in upper elevations, ~30F at lower elevations. Overnight snow started falling. Turnagain Pass has an estimated 4 inches of new snow and Alyeska midway station 3 inches new.

Today: A strong storm is tracking over Eastern Turnagain Arm. Heavy snowfall is expected this afternoon through tomorrow morning. A foot of new snow is possible by 8pm and another 1-2 ft is expected overnight. Strong Easterly ridge top winds 30-40 mph will increase into the 60s with gusts in the 80s mph by early evening. Temperatures should remain in the 20s F in the mid and upper elevations, but above freezing temps and rain is possible near sea level. Rain/snow line could reach as high as 1000 ft by this evening.

Tomorrow: Heavy snow fall is expected to decrease by early afternoon tomorrow, but snow showers will continue through the day. Ridgetop winds are also expected to decrease throughout the day from strong to moderate by the evening before another round of precip and strong winds pick up again Friday evening into Saturday. More storms are expected over the weekend and into next week.

*Seattle Ridge anemometer was freed of rime and wind data started around 4pm on 3/12/19

PRECIPITATION 24-hour data (6am - 6am)

  Temp Avg (F) Snow (in) Water (in) Snow Depth (in)
Center Ridge (1880') 29   2" - 4" 0.2  70 
Summit Lake (1400') 28  27 
Alyeska Mid (1700') 30 .08  73 

 

RIDGETOP 24-hour data (6am - 6am)

  Temp Avg (F) Wind Dir Wind Avg (mph) Wind Gust (mph)
Sunburst (3812') 20  ENE  17  43 
Seattle Ridge(2400') 25  *ESE  *7  *29 

This is a general backcountry avalanche advisory issued for Turnagain Arm with Turnagain Pass as the core advisory area (this advisory does not apply to highways, railroads, or operating ski areas).

Winter snowmachine use open/closed status and riding conditions updates

Riding status is not associated with avalanche danger. An area will be open to motorized use in accordance to the Forest Management Plan when snow coverage is adequate to protect underlying vegetation. Backcountry hazards including avalanche hazard are always present regardless of the open status of motorized use areas.

(Updated: Mar 22, 2019 )

AREA STATUS WEATHER AND RIDING CONDITIONS
Glacier District
Johnson Pass: Open
Placer River: ClosedClosed as of 3.20.19 due to lack of snow.
Skookum Drainage: ClosedPlacer access closed as of 3.20.19 due to lack of snow.
Turnagain Pass: Open
Twentymile: ClosedClosed as of 3.20.19 due to lack of snow.
Seward District
Carter Lake: Open
Lost Lake Trail: ClosedClosed as of 3/22. Unfortunately HEAVY rain over the past week has washed much of the snow off the lower stretches of this trail.
Primrose Trail: OpenPlease stay on trail to avoid resource damage through forested areas.
Resurrection Pass Trail: ClosedClosed for the 2018/19 season. Next season will be open to motorized use.
Snug Harbor: Open
South Fork Snow River Corridor: ClosedClosed as of 3.20.19 due to lack of snow.
Summit Lake: Open

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The information in this advisory is from the U.S. Forest Service, which is solely responsible for its content. This advisory describes general avalanche conditions and local variations always occur. This advisory provided by the Chugach National Forest, in partnership with Friends of the Chugach National Forest Avalanche Information Center.


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