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Turnagain Pass Avalanche Forecast RSS

Archives
ARCHIVED FORECAST - All forecasts expire after 24 hours from the posting date/time.
Issued
Mon, December 16th, 2019 - 7:00AM
Expires
Tue, December 17th, 2019 - 7:00AM
Forecaster
Aleph Johnston-Bloom
The Bottom Line

The avalanche danger is MODERATE above 1000′. Human triggered wind slabs and cornice falls remain possible on steep leeward slopes and gullies. Look for signs of obvious wind effect and choose terrain carefully.

***There is virtually no snow below 1000′. However, there have been a two reported natural avalanches since Friday that have run from the Alpine to sea level in channeled terrain. This is not expected today but important to keep in mind when using summer hiking trails with overhead hazard.

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Mon, December 16th, 2019
Alpine
Above 2,500'
Moderate (2)
Avalanche risk
Treeline
1,000'-2,500'
Moderate (2)
Avalanche risk
Below Treeline
Below 1,000'
No Rating (0)
Avalanche risk
Alpine
Above 2,500'
Avalanche risk
Moderate (2)
Treeline
1,000'-2,500'
Avalanche risk
Moderate (2)
Below Treeline
Below 1,000'
Avalanche risk
No Rating (0)
Danger Scale:
No Rating (0)
Low (1)
Moderate (2)
Considerable (3)
High (4)
Extreme (5)
Recent Avalanches

Avalanche in motion across the Arm observed from the Tesoro at 11:15 am, 12.15.19. Photo: Nancy Pfeiffer

Avalanche Problem 1
  • Wind Slabs
    Wind Slabs
  • Almost Certain
    Very Likely
    Likely
    Possible
    Unlikely
    Likelihood
  • Historic
    Very Large
    Large
    Small
    Size
Wind Slabs
Wind Slab avalanches are the release of a cohesive layer of snow (a slab) formed by the wind. Wind typically transports snow from the upwind sides of terrain features and deposits snow on the downwind side. Wind slabs are often smooth and rounded and sometimes sound hollow, and can range from soft to hard. Wind 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.

Likelihood of Avalanches
Terms such as "unlikely", "likely", and "certain" are used to define the scale, with the chance of triggering or observing avalanches increasing as we move up the scale. For our purposes, "Unlikely" means that few avalanches could be triggered in avalanche terrain and natural avalanches are not expected. "Certain" means that humans will be able to trigger avalanches on many slopes, and natural avalanches are expected.

Size of Avalanches
Avalanche size is defined by the largest potential avalanche, or expected range of sizes related to the problem in question. Assigned size is a qualitative estimate based on the destructive classification system and requires specialists to estimate the harm avalanches may cause to hypothetical objects located in the avalanche track (AAA 2016, CAA 2014). Under this schema, "Small" avalanches are not large enough to bury humans and are relatively harmless unless they carry people over cliffs or through trees or rocks. Moving up the scale, avalanches become "Large" enough to bury, injure, or kill people. "Very Large" avalanches may bury or destroy vehicles or houses, and "Historic" avalanches are massive events capable of altering the landscape.

Signal Word Size (D scale) Simple Descriptor
Small 1 Unlikely to bury a person
Large 2 Can bury a person
Very Large 3 Can destroy a house
Historic 4 & 5 Can destroy part or all of a village
More info at Avalanche.org

Yesterday the mountains received another half an inch to close to an inch of water with precipitation favoring Turnagain Pass.  Above around 1800′ this fell as snow. This added to the 1-3′ that fell at upper elevations over the past few days. The winds continued to be easterly 20-40mph, gusting into the 50s. Observers in the field noted wind transport and tender wind slab conditions in wind exposed terrain. Today wind speeds are forecast to slowly decrease and overall snowfall should be light but wind slabs will still be possible in steep leeward terrain. It will be important to look for signs of wind effect and pay attention to blowing snow. What direction is the drifting? Does the slope or gully look fat and pillowed? Feel for stiffer snow over softer snow, look for cracking and listen for hollow sounds. Is there cornice overhanging the slope you want to ski?

Cornices: Continue to develop –  give them plenty of space to prevent triggering from above, and limit exposure when traveling in the runout.

Wind slab over a rime crust. 2700′ Tenderfoot. 12.15.19

Wind effect on Tenderfoot Ridge, 12.15.19

Triggering small wind slab and cracking on wind loaded test slope on Tenderfoot Ridge, 12.15.19 

Avalanche Problem 2
  • Glide Avalanches
    Glide Avalanches
  • Almost Certain
    Very Likely
    Likely
    Possible
    Unlikely
    Likelihood
  • Historic
    Very Large
    Large
    Small
    Size
Glide Avalanches
Glide Avalanches are the release of the entire snow cover as a result of gliding over the ground. Glide avalanches can be composed of wet, moist, or almost entirely dry snow. They typically occur in very specific paths, where the slope is steep enough and the ground surface is relatively smooth. They are often proceeded by full depth cracks (glide cracks), though the time between the appearance of a crack and an avalanche can vary between seconds and months. Glide avalanches are unlikely to be triggered by a person, are nearly impossible to forecast, and thus pose a hazard that is extremely difficult to manage.

Likelihood of Avalanches
Terms such as "unlikely", "likely", and "certain" are used to define the scale, with the chance of triggering or observing avalanches increasing as we move up the scale. For our purposes, "Unlikely" means that few avalanches could be triggered in avalanche terrain and natural avalanches are not expected. "Certain" means that humans will be able to trigger avalanches on many slopes, and natural avalanches are expected.

Size of Avalanches
Avalanche size is defined by the largest potential avalanche, or expected range of sizes related to the problem in question. Assigned size is a qualitative estimate based on the destructive classification system and requires specialists to estimate the harm avalanches may cause to hypothetical objects located in the avalanche track (AAA 2016, CAA 2014). Under this schema, "Small" avalanches are not large enough to bury humans and are relatively harmless unless they carry people over cliffs or through trees or rocks. Moving up the scale, avalanches become "Large" enough to bury, injure, or kill people. "Very Large" avalanches may bury or destroy vehicles or houses, and "Historic" avalanches are massive events capable of altering the landscape.

Signal Word Size (D scale) Simple Descriptor
Small 1 Unlikely to bury a person
Large 2 Can bury a person
Very Large 3 Can destroy a house
Historic 4 & 5 Can destroy part or all of a village
More info at Avalanche.org

Stay on the lookout for glide cracks and glide avalanches. There was a glide cycle in the Girdwood Valley at the end of last week and a few cracks opening on Tincan.  If you do come across glide cracks give them a wide berth and limit time underneath. Glide avalanches are highly unpredictable. Sometimes cooling temperatures are associated with release.

Additional Concern
  • Persistent Slabs
    Persistent Slabs
Persistent Slabs
Persistent Slab avalanches are the release of a cohesive layer of snow (a slab) in the middle to upper snowpack, when the bond to an underlying persistent weak layer breaks. Persistent layers include: surface hoar, depth hoar, near-surface facets, or faceted snow. Persistent weak layers can continue to produce avalanches for days, weeks or even months, making them especially dangerous and tricky. As additional snow and wind events build a thicker slab on top of the persistent weak layer, this avalanche problem may develop into a Deep Persistent Slab.
More info at Avalanche.org

Keep in mind that in the Summit Lake area and in parts of the advisory area that have an overall shallower snowpack in the Alpine, we are concerned about weak faceted snow that sits under the new snow from the past week. This is above 3000′, where the snow is dryer. Before the storm cycles, faceted snow existed at the base of the snowpack and other layers of facets/crusts. We have limited recent data from upper elevation terrain.

Weather
Mon, December 16th, 2019

Yesterday: Cloudy skies with rain/snow showers throughout the day. Rain/snow line was around 1800′. Easterly winds were 20-40 mph gusting into the 50s. Temperatures were in the 40Fs at sea level and in the mid 20Fs at 3000′. Overnight skies remained cloudy with minimal precipitation and temperatures dropped slightly in the early morning.

Today: Cloudy skies and light rain/showers. Rain/snowline around 1700′ and 1-6″ of snow in the forecast. Temperatures will be in the high 30Fs at sea level and high 20Fs at ridgetops. Winds will be easterly 10-20 mph gusting into the 30s. Overnight temperatures are forecast to drop into the 20Fs, light snow showers will continue and winds will remain easterly and ease off.

Tomorrow: Continuing cloudy skies and rain/snow showers. Light east winds and temperatures in the low 30Fs to mid 20Fs. There is a cooling trend for the week with this quote in the National Weather Service long term discussion this morning, “At this point, Saturday looks brutally cold for Southcentral“. Stay tuned!

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

Temp Avg (F) Snow (in) Water (in) Snow Depth (in)
Center Ridge (1880′) 34 3 0.8 32
Summit Lake (1400′) 34 0 0.1 7
Alyeska Mid (1700′) 34 1 0.3 17

RIDGETOP 24-hour data (6am – 6am)

Temp Avg (F) Wind Dir Wind Avg (mph) Wind Gust (mph)
Sunburst (3812′) 24 NE 26 60
Seattle Ridge (2400′) NA* NA* NA* NA*

*Seattle Ridge weather station is down and as soon as the weather clears we will get it up and running!

Observations
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Date Region Location
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04/04/20 Turnagain Observation: Tincan
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Riding Areas
Updated Mon, October 26th, 2020

Status of riding areas across the Chugach NF is managed by the Glacier and Seward Ranger Districts, not avalanche center staff. Riding area information is posted as a public service to our users and updated based on snow depth and snow density to prevent resource damage at trailhead locations. Riding area questions contact: mailroom_r10_chugach@fs.fed.us

Area Status Weather & Riding Conditions
Glacier District
Johnson Pass
Closed
Placer River
Closed
Skookum Drainage
Closed
Turnagain Pass
Closed
Twentymile
Closed
Seward District
Carter Lake
Closed
Lost Lake Trail
Closed
Primrose Trail
Closed
Resurrection Pass Trail
Closed
Snug Harbor
Closed
South Fork Snow River Corridor
Closed
Summit Lake
Closed

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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.