Good Morning backcountry travelers, this is Carl Skustad with the Chugach National Forest Avalanche Information Center on Saturday, February 7, 2009 at 7am. This will serve as a general backcountry avalanche advisory issued 5 days a week Wednesday-Sunday for the Turnagain Arm area (Turnagain Pass is the core advisory area). Local variations always occur.
MOUNTAIN WEATHER ROUND UP
In the last 24 hours…
-General Weather Observations-
Well, well, well – what a nice weather window we have. Yesterday the clouds parted and the winds died off. Today looks like more of the same if the fog lifts. Cooler temps in the teens this morning in most areas, but look at Moose Pass -4 and Summit 2 deg F.
–The DOT weather station near the crest the highway at Turnagain Pass at 1000 feet–
Is recording a temp of 12 degrees (3 deg cooler than yesterday) with light to calm winds.
–The NRCS Center Ridge weather station at 1800 feet in Turnagain Pass–
Has a temp of 5 degrees (13 degrees cooler than yesterday). 0 new precip. Total snowpack depth is 64″.
–The Sunburst weather station at 3800 feet in Turnagain Pass–
Shows a temperature of 5 degrees (10 degrees cooler than yesterday). Winds have been calm to light.
-Surface Analysis Maps-
Three low pressure systems to our southwest, but nothing effecting us directly.
Clear sailing. Fog may be present at lower elevations.
Primary avalanche concerns
-Surface wind slabs on slippery bed surface on alpine ridges above 3000 feet
Secondary avalanche concerns
-Rain crust (ice layer) from January below 3000ft
AVALANCHE AND SNOWPACK
We have been running with some pretty stable avalanche conditions over the last three weeks. Although subtle, this is changing! We need to raise our level of awareness this weekend as an increased number of human triggered avi observations have trickled in.
Moderate avalanche hazard exists today. Natural avalanches unlikely. Human triggered avalanches possible today. Areas of concern include an elevation band from 800 to 1500 ft where the January rain crust is faceted and creating a weak layer. The second area of concern lies near alpine ridges were sensitive wind slabs live.
Heavy rains slammed the area 4 weeks ago. This rain left behind a rain crust up to ~3000ft. This crust is 1 to 1.5 ft deep at 1000 ft. A slight temperature gradient has formed around this crust in the last couple of weeks, most significantly between 800 and 1500 ft. This temperature gradient has developed weak faceted snow around this crust. My main concern with this band exists if you found yourself above terrain traps at these low elevations.
Of more concern to me is the higher elevation wind slabs. These are obvious and predictable. If the snow looks fat and wind loaded, it’s a wind slab. The good thing is we know where they live and they’re predictable. We can stay away from them if we choose. Thursday’s strong winds re-energized these slabs. These wind slabs have been running on multiple aspects over the last week. Shooting cracks and drum sounding snow will indicate wind stiffened snow and a possible wind slab. If these conditions are present, lower you slope angle or return to softer, lighter snow.
Yesterday a great observation was reported from Lips in T-Pass. Ridge top wind slabs were trigged and the debris pulled out 1 to 1.5 ft slabs as it ran to the valley bottom. This is plenty avalanche to injure or bury a person, especially if a terrain trap is involved.
These skier triggered wind slabs pulled out additional surface slabs as the debris ran to the valley floor! photo-Munter,2006.02.06
Keep your human factors and decision making in check today, The snow “stoke” meter will be pegged for some of you today!!! Make good decisions in complex terrain. One at a time and look for escape routes, use runs with fan shaped run-outs not cliff bands or terrain traps!!!
WESTERN PRINCE WILLIAM SOUND-
I500 AM AKST SAT FEB 7 2009
.TODAY…MOSTLY SUNNY. HIGHS IN THE 20S. NORTHWEST WIND 10 TO 15 MPH.
GUSTS TO 35 MPH NEAR SEWARD AND WHITTIER.
.TONIGHT…PARTLY CLOUDY. PATCHY FOG. LOWS 10 TO 20 ABOVE…
COOLEST INLAND. NORTHWEST WIND 10 TO 15 MPH EXCEPT NORTH 20 TO
30 MPH NEAR SEWARD.
.SUNDAY…PARTLY CLOUDY. HIGHS IN THE LOWER TO MID 20S. NORTHWEST
WIND 10 TO 15 MPH EXCEPT NORTH 20 TO 30 MPH NEAR SEWARD.
.SUNDAY NIGHT…MOSTLY CLEAR. LOWS 5 TO 20 ABOVE…COOLEST INLAND.
VARIABLE WIND TO 10 MPH. NEAR SEWARD…NORTH WIND 10 TO 20 MPH.
.MONDAY…PARTLY CLOUDY IN THE MORNING THEN BECOMING MOSTLY
CLOUDY. A CHANCE OF SNOW. HIGHS IN THE LOWER TO MID 20S. LIGHT
WINDS EXCEPT NORTH 10 MPH NEAR SEWARD.
TEMPERATURE / PRECIPITATION
SEWARD 26 19 24 / 0 0 0
GIRDWOOD 21 9 19 / 0 0 0
This concludes today’s avalanche advisory the next advisory will be on Sunday, February 8th. Thanks and have a great day.