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Sat, November 8th, 2014 - 7:00AM
Sun, November 9th, 2014 - 7:00AM
Wendy Wagner
Avalanche risk The Bottom Line

Avalanche season is here.

Beginning Friday, there have been numerous natural wet avalanches and glide avalanches running in the Girdwood and Portage Valleys – Turnagain Pass is likely seeing the same. This is in response to rain falling below treeline and wet snow near treeline. Up in the high alpine terrain it is snowing and blowing, expect there to be natural storm snow avalanches occurring there as well. More details below.

As the stormy weather continues in the Eastern Turnagain Arm area, be cautious of where you are recreating and travel in avalanche terrain is not recommended. Know where you are and steer clear of runout zones and areas with glide cracks – this includes hiking trails that pass under (or across) steep slopes and gullies!

*We will be posting intermittent updates during the first half of November. Advisories will begin in mid-November or as the snowpack warrants.

Upcoming Events

November 13th:   Join the Friends of the CNFAIC and forecasters for our  6th Annual CNFAIC Fundraiser  featuring Luc Mehl! Details  HERE.

November 18th:  FREE  Avalanche Awareness talk at REI  – 6:00-7:30pm

November 20th:    Winter Project World Premiere!! A documentary about backcountry snowmachining in Alaska – Bear Tooth Theater and Pub

November 29th:   Avalanche Recognition & Rescue – Glen Alps – hosted by the Alaska Avalanche School

Sat, November 8th, 2014
Above 2,500'
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Avalanche risk
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Avalanche risk
Below Treeline
Below 1,000'
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Avalanche risk
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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
  • Wet Loose
    Wet Loose
Wet Loose
Wet Loose avalanches are the release of wet unconsolidated snow or slush. These avalanches typically occur within layers of wet snow near the surface of the snowpack, but they may quickly gouge into lower snowpack layers. Like Loose Dry Avalanches, they start at a point and entrain snow as they move downhill, forming a fan-shaped avalanche. Other names for loose-wet avalanches include point-release avalanches or sluffs. Loose Wet avalanches can trigger slab avalanches that break into deeper snow layers.
More info at Avalanche.org

Wet avalanches:  Rain falling off-and-on up to 1800′ has weakened our 2-3′ snowpack and everything from wet loose, wet slab and glide avalanches have been reported. All of these reports have come in today (Saturday) and avalanche size has been described as small to medium. These are releasing on all aspects and elevations around 3,000′ and below.

As stated in the bottom line, be cautions of runout zones and areas under/near glide cracks where an avalanche occurring above could run down into your location.

Glide avalanches and cracks in the Girdwood area (Virgin Valley) above. Photo taken by Tim Glassett ADOT&PF.

Avalanche Problem 2
  • Storm Slabs
    Storm Slabs
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.
More info at Avalanche.org

Dry avalanches:  Above 3,000′ in the alpine terrain where it is snowing and blowing – classic stormy weather with little visibility – natural storm snow avalanches are likely. These come in the form of wind slabs, storm slabs and loose snow avalanches. Though winds are predominantly from the East, all aspects are suspect that harbor snow.

If you are debating getting out in the higher elevation backcountry to where it’s snowing, beware that natural avalanches are possible. Even if the skies clear and the snow stops be VERY suspect of triggering an avalanche. With weak snow on the ground earlier this month, the new storm snow may take several days to gain strength. Watch out for strong (harder) snow over weak (softer) snow – these are ingredients for a slab avalanche. Digging or poking in the snow with your pole can be very useful for sussing out this bad combination.

 It looks like it will keep snowing up high for another few days – possibly this will begin to fill the cracks on the glaciers and set down a good base for the year?!

Sat, November 8th, 2014

November is coming in warm, wet and windy. We have had precipitation for 6 of the first 7 days of November and another several more days on the way. This is due to Super Typhoon Nuri that has evolved into a strong low pressure system centered in the Bearing that has shifted the storm track right to Southcentral AK. See image below from the NWS.

This is good news for the alpine elevations above treeline where it is snowing but for the lower elevations, not so much. The rain/snow line has been hovering between 1500 and 1800 feet and is expected to rise with warmer and wetter air masses moving in as the storm track dips further south.

Since Halloween night we have seen 25″ of snow and 3″ of water equivalent at the Turnagain Pass SNOTEL. This has been in two storm intervals. The first being colder 10/31-11/3 (12″ snow and 1.2″ water) and the second being warmer with a rain/snow mix 11/5-11/7 (13″ snow and 1.7 water). Winds have been strong out of the East with averages 20-25mph and gusts to 50mph.

As we head into this week expect rain to continue up to 1500-2500′ and snow above. Models are showing around 2″ of precipitation from now (11/8 through Monday 11/10).

Recent Observations for Turnagain Pass
Date Region Location
11/16/23 Turnagain Observation: Tincan Common
11/14/23 Turnagain Observation: Sunburst/Magnum
11/14/23 Turnagain Observation: Seattle Ridge
11/13/23 Turnagain Avalanche: Tincan Trees
11/12/23 Turnagain Observation: Sunburst
11/12/23 Turnagain Avalanche: Goldpan – avalanche
11/11/23 Turnagain Observation: Tincan Common
11/11/23 Turnagain Observation: Taylor Pass – Sunburst
11/10/23 Turnagain Observation: Tincan
11/10/23 Turnagain Observation: Tincan Trees
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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.