Turnagain Pass RSS

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Wed, March 5th, 2014 - 7:00AM
Thu, March 6th, 2014 - 7:00AM
Graham Predeger
Avalanche risk The Bottom Line

LOW avalanche danger remains above and below treeline as today’s shot of moisture affecting Anchorage and points north will glance by the Eastern Turnagain Arm region.  

If this storm happens to shifts south of Anchorage today and snowfall accumulates in the 6-inch range around Turnagain pass the danger will rise to MODERATE with shallow storm slabs and loose snow avalanches as the primary concern.

Special Announcements

Join CNFAIC forecasters John Fitzgerald and Wendy Wagner at  REI on Thursday night from 6-7:30pm  for a presentation on this season’s unusual weather, snow and avalanche cycles. This talk will get into the nitty-gritty of the impressive wet avalanche cycle in late January, discuss the unique snowpack we have seen this year and more. We look forward to seeing you there.  To reserve a seat go to REI’s website on this link– plus, it’s FREE!!

Wed, March 5th, 2014
Above 2,500'
1 - Low
Avalanche risk
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. Dangerous avalanche conditions. 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
  • Normal Caution
    Normal Caution
Normal Caution
Normal Caution means triggering an avalanche is unlikely but not impossible.
More info at Avalanche.org

With temperatures cooling significantly since the most recent Feb 28th warm-up our snowpack is pretty well locked in place and capped off by a 1-4″ melt freeze crust.  New snow today doesn’t appear significant enough to tip the balance in terms of triggering large avalanches.  However travellers in steep terrain may experience loose snow sluffs or shallow storm slabs comprised of any new snow accumulation from today.  These will likely be less than 12″ deep, sliding easily on the surface crust.  This avalanche problem is quite manageable and should only prove concerning for travellers in steep, high consequence terrain.

Continue to follow proper backcountry travel protocol in these times of low avalanche danger, as winter is NOT over yet!  With March and April ahead of us, this optimist’s glass is still half full!

Additional Concerns:

Widespread surface hoar capped our most recent melt freeze crust on Monday.  With moderate winds yesterday and overnight, any snowfall from today has the potential to bury much of this intact.  Though this shouldn’t be a problem today given the lack of forecasted snow it warrants our attention as a future weak layer/ bed surface combination if buried intact.  

Cornices continue to grow across our region with little evidence of failure to date.  Continue to give these ‘backcountry bombs’ a wide berth and generally just be aware of where you are at in relation to a cornice.

Wed, March 5th, 2014

Temperatures yesterday hovered right around the freezing mark at 1,000′ with low 20’s at ridgetop locations.   Winds were light with moderate gusts into the mid-20 mph range from the south and east with no measurable snow accumulation in our region.

The lion’s share of forecasted precipitation in south-central Alaska today appears to be well north of Turnagain pass toward Talkeetna and the Susitna Valley with Anchorage receiving a decent shot of moisture as well.   In the Eastern Turnagain Arm area, we may see up to a couple inches of snow down to sea level, temperatures in the low 30’s at 1,000′ and generally light winds from the SE in the 7-20mph range at ridgetops today.

Looking out toward the weekend there is a North Pacific low tracking into the gulf by late Friday that should impact south-central AK through the weekend.   More to come on that €¦  

See below for a brief summary of snowpack and water data that Wendy put together yesterday:

As of March 1st from the Turnagain Pass SNOTEL at 1880′ elevation on Center Ridge:

Snow depth:  42″, this is 47% of average…ouch (Only 10 years of data exist so far, 2005-2014)
Precipitation (graph below):  86% of average (due to rain in October and January)
SWE (graph below):  50% of normal for the median SWE  

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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.