Good morning. This is Kevin Wright with the Chugach National Forest Avalanche Information Center on Saturday, February 18th at 7am. This will serve as 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).
Most of the region will drop to MODERATE avalanche danger today. If we get the predicted 6 inches and 40+mph wind, then pockets of CONSIDERABLE may develop through the day. Remember, MODERATE avalanche danger allows for large avalanches in isolated areas. We’ve had a LOT of snow recently and only very short windows for that snow to settle and bond.
The stormy weather of the last 2 weeks gave us a break yesterday. In partly sunny skies, we saw limited natural avalanche activity in the most recent storm snow. South facing slopes with direct sun exposure were experiencing roller balls and point releases. Explosive triggers continue to get inconsistent results, occasionally finding large slab avalanches.
To recap our recent weather and avalanche situation – The last 2 weeks has brought well over 100 inches of new snow to some parts of the forecast area. Avalanche danger has been elevated the entire month of February with storm snow problems. Some very large natural avalanches and dangerous skier triggered avalanches have been recorded in the last week. The storm track continues to send wind and snow our direction for the foreseeable future.
Few people were traveling on high elevation or steep slopes yesterday. Today could be appropriate to venture slightly farther into the backcountry, but only if the weather stays mild enough to allow it. All this new snow will stabilize over time if we are patient enough to wait. Each day without significant snowfall will give us an extra margin of safety.
The backcountry today should be approached with caution. It’s still premature to drop into big, steep, and high consequence terrain. One report yesterday came in from a pair of snowmachiners who experienced a large ”collapse” in Turnagain Pass at mid elevation. Collapsing and cracking is a sign of a potentially dangerous slab over a weak layer. This observation was a solid piece of evidence that the new snow is still adjusting to the significant recent loading.
Yesterday gave us a partly clear break in the weather and fairly warm temperatures. We had little snow accumulation in the last 24 hours. Overnight the temperature has dropped, but wind has picked up a bit on the ridges this morning.
Today a large front is sweeping across our region. It is coming from the Southwest and is expected to primarily impact the Western Kenai, leaving Turnagain Pass in the rain shadow. Only 3-6 inches of snow are predicted today, but wind could reach into the mid 40mph range.
CNFAIC Weather Page and the NWS forecast
Wendy will issue the next advisory Sunday morning. If you get out in the backcountry we want to know what you are seeing. Please send us your observations using the button at the top of this page or give us a call at 754-2369. Thanks and have a great day.