Last night saw another bump in wind speeds with southwesterly winds averaging 10-20 mph and gusts into the 30s. These are forecast to continue today and ramp up as winds shift to the northwest overnight. As wind directions change look for different loading patterns in the terrain. Remember Sunday night’s winds were from the northeast. Look for drifting, pillowed slopes and scouring. Wind slabs maybe found today on steep, unsupported slopes. Watch for cracking in the surface snow and stiffer snow over softer snow. Listen for hollow sounds. Although wind slabs are likely to be shallow, they could be more dangerous if they were to step-down and trigger a large slab that breaks in the MLK buried surface hoar. Alternatively on steep, protected slopes watch for sluffing.
CORNICES: Cornices are looming large in some of the Alpine terrain. Give them an extra wide berth as they often break farther back than expected.
Recent wind scouring and cross-loading on Magnum, 2-11-19. Photo: Nikki Champion.
The last human triggered avalanche on the MLK buried surface hoar occurred 6 days ago on Eddies. That avalanche was a 2′-3′ deep avalanche and was triggered remotely from the ridge on a steep, unsupported slope. Over the last week many people have been pushing into steeper terrain without incident. There is still a lingering concern that this is the kind of avalanche problem where several tracks may be on a slope before someone finds a trigger point and the whole slope avalanches. The other factor is that the current snowpack structure (with the MLK buried surface hoar 1-3′ deep) has the potential to be reactivated with additional loading. The question is what could tip the balance? Could the wind loading?
As each wind event changes the overlaying slab keep the MLK surface hoar in mind and remember:
1- This weak layer is widespread in the region and seems to be particularly suspect between 2000′-2500′ due to a melt-freeze crust associated with it.
2- Use safe travel protocol. Expose only one person at a time (this includes paying attention to other groups in the area), watch partners, stop in safe zones and be rescue ready.
3- Wind loaded steep features, large connected and unsupported slopes are the most suspect. As always, one can simply avoid high consequence terrain and stick to slopes under 35 degrees with nothing steeper above to avoid the issue.
The MLK buried surface hoar at 2500′ on Repeat Offender, 2-7-19.
There was a glide release observed yesterday in Girdwood on the lower southeast shoulder off of Goat Mtn. Glide cracks are unpredictable, not associated with human triggers, and can release without warning at any time. One pattern that has been anecdotally observed is increased glide activity with cooling temperatures and clear skies, which are in the forecast this week. Look out for glide cracks and limit exposure under them.
Glide avalanche on Goat Mtn. 2-11-19. Photo: Rich DiJulia
Yesterday: Skies were mostly clear in the morning with some valley fog becoming mostly cloudy in the late afternoon. Temperatures were in the 20Fs. Winds were light and westerly until they increased to 10-20 mph with gusts into the 30s at 1 am last night. Overnight there was snow showers with around an inch of accumulation.
Today: Skies are forecast to become partly sunny with temperatures in the mid 20Fs. There may be some morning valley fog. Winds will be westerly shifting to northwest 10-15 mph with gusts into the 20s and 30s. Northwest winds will increase overnight gusting into the 30s and 40s and temperatures will dip into the teens.
Tomorrow: Partly sunny with temperatures in the teens and low 20Fs. Northwest winds are forecast to continue to increase through the day averaging 20-30 mph with gusts into the 50s and peak late Wednesday night. Overnight temperatures drop to the low teens and single digits. Thursday looks to be cold and clear. The next chance for snow is over the weekend.
*The Seattle Ridge anemometer (wind sensor) was destroyed. We have a replacement on the way and it should be operational by mid February.
|Temp Avg (F)||Snow (in)||Water (in)||Snow Depth (in)|
|Center Ridge (1880′)||27||1||0.1||56|
|Summit Lake (1400′)||23||0||0||25|
|Alyeska Mid (1700′)||27||1||0.04||50|
|Temp Avg (F)||Wind Dir||Wind Avg (mph)||Wind Gust (mph)|
|Seattle Ridge (2400′)||25||*N/A||*N/A||*N/A|