ARCHIVED FORECAST - All forecasts expire after 24 hours from the posting date/time.
Monday February 18th, 2019
Posted by Aleph Johnston-Bloom on 02/18/19 at 7:00 am.
The Bottom Line
Considerable Avalanche Danger
Dangerous avalanche conditions. Careful snowpack evaluation, cautious route-finding and conservative decision-making essential.

The avalanche danger is CONSIDERABLE due to recent snowfall and wind loading. Human triggered slab avalanches 1-2′ thick are likely on slopes 35 degrees and steeper,  especially in wind loaded terrain. Additionally, give cornices a wide berth and avoid travel under glide cracks.  Careful snowpack evaluation and conservative decision-making are essential if headed into avalanche terrain. Look for signs of instability.  

SUMMIT LAKE / JOHNSON PASS:   This area has a very poor snowpack structure with multiple weak layers.  Watch for whumpfing, shooting cracks and recent avalanches. Triggering an avalanche in the new snow has the potential to initiate a more dangerous slab,  breaking deeper in the snowpack.  

SEWARD/ LOST LAKE:   Avalanche danger has risen in this region as well and storm snow avalanches are likely today.  

BYRON GLACIER TRAIL Hikers:    Remember this trail is in avalanche terrain and the popular snow cave is very dangerous and unstable.  

3. Considerable
Alpine
/ Above 2,500'
Avalanche risk
Dangerous avalanche conditions. Careful snowpack evaluation, cautious route-finding and conservative decision-making essential.
3. Considerable
Treeline
/ 1,000'-2,500'
Avalanche risk
Dangerous avalanche conditions. Careful snowpack evaluation, cautious route-finding and conservative decision-making essential.
2. Moderate
Below Treeline
/ Below 1,000'
Avalanche risk
Heightened avalanche conditions on specific terrain features. Evaluate snow and terrain carefully; identify features of concern.

Special Announcements

  • New snow and wind have increased the avalanche danger region-wide.  Heading to Hatcher Pass today? There is HIGH avalanche danger. Please GET the forecast!  Check out  the updated Hatcher Pass Avalanche Center Advisory  HERE, recent observations and the Hatcher Pass Avalanche Center Facebook page.  
Avalanche Problem 1
Storm Slabs
Storm Slab avalanches are the release of a cohesive layer (a slab) of new snow that breaks within new snow or on the old snow surface. Storm-slabs typically last between a few hours and few days (following snowfall). Storm-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.
  • TYPE
    Storm Slabs
  • Chance
    Almost Certain
    Very Likely
    Likely
    Possible
    Unlikely
  • Size
    Historic
    Very Large
    Large
    Small

Triggering a 1-2′ thick slab avalanche on slopes 35 degrees and steeper is likely today. Wind loaded slopes are the most suspect. Yesterday the advisory area saw steady snowfall with an additional 4-10″ of snow (favoring Girdwood) and easterly wind loading throughout the day. Sunburst saw gusts into the 80s and Max’s into the 60s. Observers noted cracking and small test slopes being easily triggered later in the day. Visibility made Alpine observations difficult. The strong winds eased off in the evening and there was a break in the snowfall. Snow started again early this morning and is forecast to continue today throughout the advisory area. The old wind harden snow surface from before the storm and Saturday’s low-density snow will make it tough for the new snow to stick right away. ‘Upside-down’ snow was noted by observers yesterday. Today look for recent avalanches, shooting cracks and listen for whumpfs or hollow sounding snow. Choose terrain carefully. Cornices may be quite tender and should avoided. 

Storm slab triggered on Sunburst at 1300′,  2-17-19. Photo: Elliot Gaddy

Storm slabs triggered on Tincan later in the day, 2-17-19. Photo: Ray Koleser. 

 

 

Avalanche Problem 2
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.
  • TYPE
    Persistent Slabs
  • Chance
    Almost Certain
    Very Likely
    Likely
    Possible
    Unlikely
  • Size
    Historic
    Very Large
    Large
    Small

New snow and wind loading have the potential to add stress to underlying weak layers. As we have been hammering home for weeks, in Turnagain Pass roughly 1-3′ below the snow surface sits a layer of buried surface hoar.  Periphery zones such as Summit Lake and Johnson Pass harbor a poor overall snowpack structure with a variety of weak layers. Although these persistent weak layers have not been reactive lately, additional load may start to tip the balance. It is good to keep in mind that triggering an avalanche today could to step down into old weak layers and initiate a larger more dangerous slide. This is more likely in Summit Lake and the central Kenai mountains. 

Additional Concern
Glide Avalanches
Glide Avalanches are the release of the entire snow cover as a result of gliding over the ground. Glide avalanches can be composed of wet, moist, or almost entirely dry snow. They typically occur in very specific paths, where the slope is steep enough and the ground surface is relatively smooth. The are often proceeded by full depth cracks (glide cracks), though the time between the appearance of a crack and an avalanche can vary between seconds and months. Glide avalanches are unlikely to be triggered by a person, are nearly impossible to forecast, and thus pose a hazard that is extremely difficult to manage.
  • TYPE
    Glide Avalanches

Glide cracks are unpredictable, not associated with human triggers, and can release without warning at any time. The best way to manage this problem is to avoid traveling on slopes directly below glide cracks.

Mountain Weather

Yesterday:  Skies were obscured with snow falling throughout the day. Winds were easterly 20-40 mph gusting as high as 88 mph on Sunburst. Temperatures were in the 20Fs to mid 30Fs. Overnight skies were mostly cloudy and winds were easterly 5-15 mph gusting into the 20s.    

Today: Mostly cloudy skies and snow showers, 3-8″ of snow forecast. Rain/snow line around 700′. Temperatures in the 20Fs to mid 30Fs. Winds will be southeasterly 5-15 mph with gusts into the 20s.  Light snow showers continue overnight with temperatures cooling into the low 20Fs.  

Tomorrow: Skies clearing in the early morning becoming mostly sunny. Winds shifting to the northwest and increasing to 20-30 mph with gusts into the 40s. Temperatures will be in the low to mid 20Fs. The next storm system is forecast to move into the area Wednesday afternoon.  

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

  Temp Avg (F) Snow (in) Water (in) Snow Depth (in)
Center Ridge (1880′)  29  2 0.3   62  
Summit Lake (1400′)  30   2    0.2     28  
Alyeska Mid (1700′)  29   5   0.6    58    

RIDGETOP 24-hour data (6am – 6am)

  Temp Avg (F) Wind Dir Wind Avg (mph) Wind Gust (mph)
Sunburst (3812′) 20    NE 20   88  
Seattle Ridge (2400′) 25    E  13      38