Good morning backcountry travelers this is Carl Skustad with the Chugach National Forest Avalanche Information Center on Friday, November 27 at 7 am. This will serve as a general backcountry avalanche advisory issued for Turnagain Arm with Turnagain Pass as the core advisory area (advisory does not apply to highways, railroads, or operating ski areas).
Turnagain Pass snowmachine area is open to motorized use. All CNFAIC Staff areas including Johnson Pass, Placer, Twenty-Mile, and all areas on the Seward Ranger District will remain closed until there is more snow. The Turnagain Pass open riding area is on the west side of the highway from Bertha Creek Campground north to the Forest boundary near the Turnagain Arm.
Avalanche danger may exist at any time in backcountry areas like Turnagain Pass on the Chugach National Forest, whether these areas are open or closed. The US Forest Service does not close areas due to avalanche danger. When areas designated for use by snowmachines on the Chugach National Forest are closed, a primary reason is for the protection of natural resources in accordance with the current Forest Plan. Similarly, on open sign does not mean that it is safe. There are many inherent dangers associated with traveling in the backcountry including avalanches. Safe backcountry travel requires training and experience. You Control Your Own Risk by choosing where, when and how to travel. The Chugach National Forest Avalanche Information Center provides pertinent information to assist you in making your own decisions for traveling in these backcountry areas.
Opening of these motorized areas in the early season can be subject to immediate closure based on sufficient snow to prevent the tracks of a snowmachine from tearing up vegetation. If the weather changes and the snowpack gets too thin to prevent resource damage, then areas may be closed again. It is your responsibility to check the official open/closed status of these areas with the Chugach National Forest. CNFAIC Staff resources for information regarding these motorized areas can be found through the Glacier Ranger District, and/or the Chugach National Forest Avalanche Information Center.
The weather as really kicked into gear. Large amounts of snow and rain fell over the last 24 hours. 1.37 inches of water equivalent has fallen in Girdwood, mostly rain, with a current temp of 34 deg F. 1.89 inches of water equivalent at 2800 feet on Alyeska, that’s close to 30 inches of snow I’m guessing.
The Center Ridge weather station in Turnagain Pass (1800 ft) is reporting 30 deg F, .9 inches of water equivalent and 20 inches of snow. This snow amount is my best interpretation of the weather data.
The Sunburst weather station in Turnagain Pass (3800 ft) is reporting 23 deg F, and winds averaging 26-40 and gusting 37-62 mph out of the east.
Multiple low pressure systems are stacked up in the gulf of AK. The current 977 mb low is filling up the radar, showing strong precip for the first half of today. Rain at lower elevations and dumping snow above the freeze line. The freeze line may go even higher than it’s current 1000 ft today. The satellite also shows strong flow into Prince William Sound pushing moisture into the advisory area.
WESTERN PRINCE WILLIAM SOUND-
500 AM AKST FRI NOV 27 2009
…STRONG WIND TODAY THROUGH PORTAGE VALLEY AND ALONG TURNAGAIN
.TODAY…SNOW AND RAIN IN THE MORNING…THEN SNOW AND RAIN SHOWERS IN
THE AFTERNOON. SNOW ACCUMULATION 1 TO 3 INCHES. HIGHS IN THE 30S.
SOUTHEAST WIND 10 TO 15 MPH. THROUGH PORTAGE VALLEY AND TURNAGAIN
ARM…EAST WIND 20 TO 30 MPH WITH GUSTS TO 45 MPH DECREASING TO
20 MPH BY AFTERNOON. WHITTIER…EAST WINDS GUSTING 30 MPH THIS
MORNING. VARIABLE WINDS 5 TO 15 MPH ELSEWHERE.
.TONIGHT…SNOW SHOWERS. SNOW ACCUMULATION UP TO 2 INCHES. LOWS
IN THE LOWER 20S TO LOWER 30S. VARIABLE WIND 10 MPH.
.SATURDAY…CLOUDY WITH A CHANCE OF SNOW. HIGHS IN THE LOWER TO
MID 30S. NORTH TO EAST WINDS 15 TO 30 MPH.
.SATURDAY NIGHT…SNOW LIKELY. LOWS IN THE MID TEENS TO LOWER
30S. NORTH TO WEST WINDS 15 TO 30 MPH NEAR SEWARD AND WHITTIER
RESPECTIVELY. VARIABLE WINDS 5 TO 10 MPH ELSEWHERE.
.SUNDAY…CLOUDY WITH SCATTERED SNOW SHOWERS. HIGHS IN THE LOWER
20S TO LOWER 30S. NORTHWEST WIND 10 TO 15 MPH EXCEPT WEST 20 TO
30 MPH NEAR WHITTIER.
.SUNDAY NIGHT…MOSTLY CLOUDY WITH SCATTERED SNOW SHOWERS. LOWS
IN THE TEENS.
TEMPERATURE / PRECIPITATION
SEWARD 39 29 36 / 80 70 50
GIRDWOOD 34 24 33 / 90 70 30
An educational opportunity is coming up to learn more about mountain weather, Dec 5th. Weather for the Backcountry Traveler Lecture Series. Given by AK Avalanche School and the NWS 9am-5pm visit www.alaskaavalanche.com for more info.
Todays avalanche hazard has increased since yesterday. Very strong east winds gusting over 60 mph and heavy snow ranging from 10 to 30+ inches is hammering our snowpack with stress. Yes, lots of new snow and lots of weight added to our snowpack in the last 24 hours. Today’s avalanche hazard is HIGH. Very dangerous avalanche conditions exist. Travel in avalanche terrain is not recommended. Natural avalanches likely; human-triggered avalanches very likely. Areas of most concern lie on steep rolevers and near ridge tops and in areas that rain falls on new snow. This would be the case if the freeze line goes above 1000 ft.
We know we have weak snow under our current snowpack. I would play it safe today and give the snowpack time to adjust. This will make for better long term stability for our snowpack in the end. We need to let this weather system play out. Stay off and away from steep slopes today.
The early season snow pack in South Central Alaska is always full of surprises because it needs time to adjust. Every year, people get caught off guard in November and December because they are trying to use Turn again Pass like they do in the middle of winter. The facts are that the snowpack is not ready for aggressive skiing, snowboarding, or snowmachining yet. The snowpack is still young, give it some time to adjust over the next couple weeks and next couple of storms. Moderate terrain for a moderate snowpack.