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ARCHIVED - Forecasts expire after 24 hours.
Issued
Tue, February 6th, 2018 - 7:00AM
Expires
Wed, February 7th, 2018 - 7:00AM
Forecaster
Aleph Johnston-Bloom
Avalanche risk The Bottom Line

The avalanche danger is  MODERATE  above 2,500′ for triggering a wind slab up to a foot thick. Keep mind the overnight wind loading may have also added stress to older persistent slabs that could break deeper in the snowpack.  Additionally, watch for cornices along ridgelines and sluffs in steep terrain.

*For the periphery zones, such as Girdwood to Portage Valley, and Johnson Pass to Summit Lake, more caution is advised where a slab could be larger and more connected.

Check out the Summit Lake Summary  HERE.

Special Announcements

For all the Hatcher Pass users out there – Hatcher Pass Avalanche Center is having their annual fundraiser this Saturday night, Feb 10th at the Palmer Moose Lodge!! HPAC is a growing avalanche center for a high use zone with a high number of avalanche accidents in Alaska, they need your support! Click  HERE  for details.

Tue, February 6th, 2018
Alpine
Above 2,500'
2 - Moderate
Avalanche risk
Treeline
1,000'-2,500'
1 - Low
Avalanche risk
Below Treeline
Below 1,000'
1 - Low
Avalanche risk
0 - No Rating
1 - Low
2 - Moderate
3 - Considerable
4 - High
5 - Extreme
Avalanche risk Avalanche risk Avalanche risk Avalanche risk Avalanche risk
Travel Advice Generally safe avalanche conditions. Watch for unstable snow on isolated terrain features. Heightened avalanche conditions on specific terrain features. Evaluate snow and terrain carefully; identify features of concern. Dangerous avalanche conditions. Careful snowpack evaluation, cautious route-finding, and conservative decision-making essential. Very dangerous avalanche conditions. Travel in avalanche terrain not recommended. Extraordinarily dangerous avalanche conditions. Avoid all avalanche terrain.
Likelihood of Avalanches Natural and human-triggered avalanches unlikely. Natural avalanches unlikely; human-triggered avalanches possible. Natural avalanches possible; human-triggered avalanches likely. Natural avalanches likely; human-triggered avalanches very likely. Natural and human-triggered avalanches certain.
Avalanche Size and Distribution Small avalanches in isolated areas or extreme terrain. Small avalanches in specific areas; or large avalanches in isolated areas. Small avalanches in many areas; or large avalanches in specific areas; or very large avalanches in isolated areas. Large avalanches in many areas; or very large avalanches in specific areas. Very large avalanches in many areas.
Avalanche Problem 1
  • Wind Slabs
    Wind Slabs
  • Certain
    Very Likely
    Likely
    Possible
    Unlikely
    Likelihood
  • Historic (D4-5)
    Very Large (D3)
    Large (D2)
    Small (D1)
    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

After a week and a half of sunshine and cold temperatures the clouds rolled in, temperatures rose and the winds picked up. Seattle Ridge recorded easterly winds in the 20s and gusting into the 40s starting at 3pm yesterday and continuing through the night. Although we only received an inch of snow overnight at Turnagain Pass and none in Girdwood there is enough old soft snow to blow around. Look for newly formed wind slabs in leeward terrain. Pay attention to slopes where the snow feels stiff, looks pillowed or sounds hollow and watch for shooting cracks. A small slab in the wrong terrain could have high consequences. 

Avalanche Problem 2
  • Persistent Slabs
    Persistent Slabs
  • Certain
    Very Likely
    Likely
    Possible
    Unlikely
    Likelihood
  • Historic (D4-5)
    Very Large (D3)
    Large (D2)
    Small (D1)
    Size
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.

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

The wind overnight may have also stiffened existing slabs and added a little more stress to a layer of buried surface hoar that exists roughly 1-2′ deep. This layer has been responsible for the scattered avalanche activity over the past week and a half (including a large avalanche that occurred on Saturday on Twin Peaks). Most areas, especially in the heart of Turnagain Pass, harbor very loose snow over the buried surface hoar and only sluffs are being seen (no slab). It is the areas where the top foot or two of snow is stiffer from wind effect/loading that we need to watch out for. Also, areas where the buried surface hoar is simply deeper due to higher snowfall amounts from our last storm on January 26th, such as in the Portage Valley zone. If choosing to push into the steep and committing terrain, watch for:

–  Areas winds have affected the snow, stiffer snow over softer snow
–  Shooting cracks 
–  Before committing to steep terrain, 
identify terrain traps like gullies, cliffs or rocks below to consider the consequences if even a small slab is released

*Deep Persistent Slab:  Weak snow can still be found near the ground at the upper most elevations in our forecast area, 3,000′ – 5,000′. Although triggering a Deep Persistent Slab is very unlikely, it is worth keeping in mind that poor structure does exist at the high elevations. 

Loose Snow ‘sluffs’:  In most places the snow is very loose and ’sluffs’ easily on the steeper slopes. Watch your ‘sluff’ and be aware of the consequences below you.

Cornices:  Cornices are unpredictable and can break further back along a ridge than expected. Give these features plenty of space.

View of the Twin Peaks Crown on the approach in to investigate on February 5th.

Closer view of the crown. The apex is the trigger point in a shallow rocky spot. The January 21st surface hoar was found to be the weak layer.

 

Weather
Tue, February 6th, 2018

Yesterday started out partly cloudy and became overcast in the afternoon. Easterly winds picked up in the late afternoon blowing consistently into the 20s and gusted as high at 59 mph on Sunburst at 2am. Temperatures rose dramatically in the valley bottoms. Portage went from -19F yesterday at 6am to 32F this morning. Upper elevations stayed in the mid to high 20sF.  

Today expect mostly cloudy skies and light snow showers. Temperatures will be in the 30sF at sea level and the 20sF at upper elevations. Winds will be easterly 5-15 mph gusting into the 20s. Overnight the clouds will move out and temperatures will be in the teens to mid 20sF. Winds will shift to the north and be light.

Tomorrow should be mostly sunny by mid day with temperatures in the teens to mid 20s and light winds. Thursday the sun continues and then there is a chance of snow into the weekend.  

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

  Temp Avg (F) Snow (in) Water (in) Snow Depth (in)
Center Ridge (1880′)  28 1    .1 62  
Summit Lake (1400′)  18  0   0  18
Alyeska Mid (1700′)  26  0   0    50

RIDGETOP 24-hour data (6am – 6am)

  Temp Avg (F) Wind Dir Wind Avg (mph) Wind Gust (mph)
Sunburst (3812′)  22 ENE   18   59  
Seattle Ridge (2400′) 25   SE    22  46
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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.