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Sun, November 8th, 2020 - 7:00AM
Mon, November 9th, 2020 - 7:00AM
Conditions Summary

UPDATE:  7am Sunday, November 8th

Stormy weather, heavy snowfall and increasing avalanche danger is hitting Girdwood, Turnagain Pass, the Kenai Peninsula and many other areas in Southcentral Alaska this morning. The National Weather Service has issued several warnings along with this Special Weather Statement for Girdwood and Turnagain Pass. Additionally, a High Wind Warning is in effect for Turnagain Arm through Anchorage and up to Hatcher Pass. Winds are already gusting in the 70’s mph at Sunburst weather station.

Despite a rain/snow mix occurring at sea level in Girdwood, snow is piling up at the higher elevations. Snowfall amounts, as of 6am Sunday morning, in the mountains above Girdwood Valley are already up to a foot and in the 6-8″ range above Turnagain Pass. The Kenai mountains, from Summit Lake toward Seward, have picked up 6-12″ of snow as well. The storm is near its halfway mark and roughly double what has fallen so far can be expected for a storm total as the system moves out this evening. That is in the 2 foot range for Girdwood Valley and in the 12 – 16″ range for Turnagain Pass.

Hatcher Pass is looking to be the winner with forecasted storm totals up to 2.5 feet. The Hatcher Pass Avalanche Center has issued a HIGH avalanche danger. See their information both on Facebook as well as their Advisory page.

Note: The labeled storm totals are for the lower elevations in Girdwood and the road level at Turnagain Pass where wet snow is falling.

Avalanche Problem 1
  • Storm Slabs
    Storm Slabs
Storm Slabs
Storm Slab avalanches are the release of a cohesive layer (a slab) of new snow that breaks within new snow or on the old snow surface. Storm-slabs typically last between a few hours and few days (following snowfall). Storm-slabs that form over a persistent weak layer (surface hoar, depth hoar, or near-surface facets) may be termed Persistent Slabs or may develop into Persistent Slabs.
More info at Avalanche.org

Avalanche danger is on the rise today and although skies clear up for Monday, the danger likely will not. There are a few key ingredients making this a concerning set-up:

  • New snow is falling on 3-8″ of old rotten faceted snow above 2000′ (see photo below). This is expected to create a very poor bond between the new and old snow. After the storm passes, triggering an avalanche will still be likely due to the expected poor bonding, including remotely trigged avalanches.
  • The storm is coming in ‘upside-down’. This means the storm is warming up as it passes and denser/warmer snow is falling on lighter/cooler snow. This creates a slab avalanche issue in and of itself.
  • Wind! Strong winds are no doubt blowing new snow into slabs as we speak. If these wind slabs are sitting on older faceted snow, they are not likely to bond quickly and can be dangerous days after the storm ends.
  • Expected slab thicknesses by Monday should be anywhere from 8″ to 2 feet.

*It’s game on in the backcountry. Today is a good day to let the mountains do their thing and when the weather quiets down, keep our guard up. Even in areas like Turnagain with hardly any snow, if the conditions are right it doesn’t take much to slide and cause serious problems. Watch for the RED FLAGS: Cracking in the snow, whumpfing and of course any recent avalanches.

This image is from the Seattle Ridge weather station and shows Turnagain Pass yesterday (Nov 7) just before the storm moved in.


Quick check for us all: Is our RESCUE GEAR in order??

Make sure your avalanche rescue gear is in order. This means:
– Your shovel and probe assemble properly and no parts are rusted and/or worn out.
– Your beacon has fresh batteries and your terminals are not corroded.
– Brush up on how to use your avalanche beacon – turn it on, does it pick up another beacon properly and vice versa?

Recent Observations for Turnagain Pass
Date Region Location
11/27/23 Turnagain Avalanche: Tincan Ridge
11/26/23 Turnagain Observation: Road report: Slide with dirt on Repeat offender
11/26/23 Turnagain Observation: Pete’s North
11/25/23 Turnagain Observation: Tincan trees
11/21/23 Observation: Spokane Creek
11/20/23 Turnagain Observation: Sunburst
11/19/23 Turnagain Observation: Magnum – PMS Bowl
11/19/23 Other Regions Observation: Sunnyside/Penguin
11/19/23 Turnagain Observation: Eddies
11/19/23 Turnagain Observation: Cornbiscuit
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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.