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Avalanche Advisory

Turnagain Area Avalanche Advisory
Friday, March 29th 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 is generally LOW in the morning below 3000’, but is expected to rise to CONSIDERABLE by late afternoon on steep Southern aspects where initiating a wet loose avalanche is likely. Above 3000’ the avalanche danger is MODERATE where triggering a deeper more dangerous slab avalanche is possible. Later in the day with warming from the sun, the avalanche danger in the Alpine will also rise to CONSIDERABLE on South aspects where triggering a cornice or wet loose avalanche has the potential to initiate a destructive slab avalanche. Pay attention to changing surface conditions and avoid solar aspects in the afternoon. Natural glide avalanches have been occurring daily. Give cornices and glide cracks a wide berth.

PORTAGE VALLEY: There is a still a chance that direct sunshine and afternoon warming could initiate wet loose avalanches that run to lower elevations or cause cornice fall. Summer trails with avalanche terrain overhead, like Byron Glacier Trail, are not recommended.

SUMMIT LAKE (& INTERIOR EASTERN KENAI MTS): The snowpack in this zone is shallow and has many weak layers. Human triggered slab avalanches remain possible in upper elevation terrain with direct sunshine and warming temperatures. In addition, look for wet loose avalanches and changing surface conditions in the afternoon.

SEWARD/LOST LAKE: Similar to Turnagain - Human triggered avalanches will be possible today with warm temperatures and direct sunshine. Extra caution especially on steep, solar aspects in the Alpine is recommended.


 Show the Complete North American Avalanche Danger Scale
3 Considerable Alpine / Above 2,500' Travel Advice: Dangerous avalanche conditions. Careful snowpack evaluation, cautious routefinding and conservative decision-making essential.
3 Considerable Treeline / 1,000'-2,500' Travel Advice: Dangerous avalanche conditions. Careful snowpack evaluation, cautious routefinding and conservative decision-making essential.
2 Moderate Below Treeline / Below 1,000' Travel Advice: Heightened avalanche conditions on specific terrain features. Evaluate snow and terrain carefully; identify features of concern.
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Avalanche Problem 1

Wet Loose

Almost Certain
Very Likely
Likely
Possible
Unlikely

Chance

Historic
Very Large
Large
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Size

The snowpack has shifted into a daily pattern of freezing surfaces overnight and melting surface snow in the afternoon and evening. On steep solar aspects radiation from the sun has also caused some natural wet avalanche activity later in the day. The majority of this activity has been on slopes that have rocks or dirt exposed and act as heat conductors, like Seattle Ridge which also saw a big avalanche cycle during last week’s rain event. Today we have a very warm and sunny day and calm winds today could allow surfaces to heat up more than they have in the past few days.

The best way to manage this problem is to shift over to more shaded slopes later in the day. Pay close attention to surface conditions and if you are sinking in on your skis or trenching on your snowmachine or punching through with your boots it's a good idea to get off the slope. Push-a-lanches where the surface snow picks up momentum and entrains more surface snow is a good indicator of dangerous conditions. Avoid travel directly on or under South facing slopes later in the day. Visual clues such as recent avalanches will be tough to identify due to a widespread avalanche cycle last week. It’s really hard to tell which avalanches are new and which ones are old.

CORNICES: Cornices are very large and warm air temperatures and direct sunshine could destabilize them today. A cornice fall has the potential to trigger a very large avalanche on the slope below and could break farther back than expected. Give them a wide berth.

Seattle Ridge has been falling apart between the big wet avalanche cycle last week during a heavy rain event, natural glide avalanches, and now the sun is heating up loose snow around rocks and dirt daily. 


Avalanche Problem 2

Deep Persistent Slabs

Almost Certain
Very Likely
Likely
Possible
Unlikely

Chance

Historic
Very Large
Large
Small

Size

Above 3000’ deeper snowpack instability remains a concern. A big storm event that ended on Monday and lasted two weeks dumped 5-10+ feet of snow across our region. In many places this overloaded an older snow (facets/buried surface hoar) interface and caused some very large natural avalanches. At this point there remains uncertainty if a human could trigger such a large and dangerous avalanche. Triggering this kind of avalanche would either require a very large trigger like a cornice or large wet-loose avalanche later in the day or a skier or snowmachiner finding just the right trigger spot in a shallow part of the slab. Signs of instability won't necessarily be present and it could be the 1st or 10th skier or rider on a slope that triggers a very large destructive avalanche. All aspects and slopes above 3000’ that haven’t already avalanched are suspect. Snow pits and stability tests won’t necessarily provide representative information. This avalanche problem has become a high consequence low likelihood scenario and managing this problem is tricky. Keep in mind the following:

  • Identify and avoid cornices and dangerous terrain traps 
  • Avoid steep solar aspects that are heating up later in the day
  • Use safe travel protocols like traveling one at a time from established safe zones


South of Turnagain in Summit Lake and areas in the interior Kenai Peninsula have a very poor snow structure with variety of old weak layers in the mid pack (facets and buried surface hoar.) Triggering a persistent slab 2-3’ deep as slopes warm in the afternoon sun is possible in the alpine. 

A recent natural slab avalanche on a West aspect of Butch Mt in Summit Lake. The timing of this avalanche in unknown, but due to how fresh the crown appears we suspect it happened within the last two or three days. Note the older crown from last week in the lookers left corner is more filled in. 


Additional Concern

Glide Avalanches

Many glide cracks have avalanched over the last few days throughout the region. The Southeast face of Seattle Ridge has seen a bunch of natural glide avalanches in the last three days. Glides are very unpredictable and fail at the ground pulling out the entire season's snowpack. Many cracks are opening up in popular terrain and avoidance is strongly recommended. Plan your routes to avoid spending any time below existing glide cracks. 

 

This glide crack released in the early evening yesterday also pulled out small slab with it.


Mountain Weather

Yesterday: Skies were clear and sunny. Temperatures reached the low 50Fs near sea level, upper 40Fs in the mid elevations and mid 30Fs in the upper elevations. Overnight temps at sea level and mid elevations hovered around freezing. A little cloud cover moved in overnight, but no precip was recorded. Ridgetop winds were 5-15mph from the East all day becoming light and variable overnight.

Today: Skies will be mostly sunny with some clouds in the morning. Daytime temperatures are expected to reach the mid 40Fs in the mid-elevations. In the alpine temps could reach the upper 30Fs. Ridge top winds should remain light and variable today. Overnight temperatures should drop below freezing to the upper 20Fs.

Tomorrow: High pressure and sunny skies will continue tomorrow and into next week. Similar daily temperatures are expected, mid 40Fs during the day and low 20Fs overnight. Light winds and no precipitation is expected.

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

  Temp Avg (F) Snow (in) Water (in) Snow Depth (in)
Center Ridge (1880') 38  69 
Summit Lake (1400') 36  22 
Alyeska Mid (1700') 39  63 

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

  Temp Avg (F) Wind Dir Wind Avg (mph) Wind Gust (mph)
Sunburst (3812') 29  ENE  23 
Seattle Ridge(2400') 34  ESE  15 

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: May 06, 2019 )

AREA STATUS WEATHER AND RIDING CONDITIONS
Glacier District
Johnson Pass: ClosedClosed as of 4.3.19
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: ClosedClosed as of 5/6. Thanks for a great season all, see you next winter!
Twentymile: ClosedClosed as of 3.20.19 due to lack of snow.
Seward District
Carter Lake: Closed
Lost Lake Trail: ClosedClosed as of 3.22.19 due to lack of snow
Primrose Trail: ClosedClosed as of 4.3.19 due to lack of snow
Resurrection Pass Trail: ClosedClosed for the 2018/19 season. Next season will be open to motorized use.
Snug Harbor: ClosedClose as of 5.1.2019
South Fork Snow River Corridor: ClosedClosed as of 3.20.19 due to lack of snow.
Summit Lake: Closed

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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.


USFS SNOW AND AVALANCHE HOTLINE (907) 754-2369
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