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Thu, November 27th, 2014 - 7:00AM
Fri, November 28th, 2014 - 7:00AM
Wendy Wagner
Avalanche risk The Bottom Line

The avalanche danger is  LOW  near and above treeline in the alpine zones. Below treeline continues to be snow-free. There is a potential for triggering a shallow wind slab in extreme terrain at the highest elevations. Additionally, sluffing in the top 5-7″ of snow is possible on steep (> 40 degrees) continuous slopes.

*Early season hazards such as rocks, stumps, alders, small terrain features that are not filled in yet – you name it – are the biggest concern right now. How these hazards compare to Black Friday lines however, is another question.

The next advisory will be Saturday morning at 7am.  
Outlook for Friday:
Increasing cloud cover, continued light winds and little to no snow accumulation all point to Friday’s avalanche conditions to be the same as today.

Special Announcements

It is with heavy hearts that we announce the loss of one of Alaska’s longtime avalanche forecasters, friend and colleague. Retired ADOT&PF avalanche forecaster Terry Onslow passed away on Tuesday, November 25th. This was two years and one day after ADOT&PF avalanche forecaster Rob Hammel left us. This is a sad time for the avalanche community and our thoughts and condolences go out to the family and friends of Terry.

Terry was the avalanche forecaster for ADOT&PF for 27 years! He was a leader in the artillery community and one of his crowning achievements was developing and continually improving the artillery program for ADOT&PF along the Seward Highway, Dalton Highway, Thane Road and Richardson Highway. His avalanche career also took him as far away as Russia to conduct an avalanche study of a mining operation. Prior to 1983, he worked as a patroller doing snow safety work at Big Sky Montana where he used to say he learned about facets and depth hoar. In his younger days, he was a ski racer on the icy slopes of the East Coast.  

We would like to take this opportunity today, Thanksgiving, to give thanks to all the avalanche forecasters and public safety workers that spend countless hours minimizing our risk as we travel along the Alaskan roads for various reasons, many of those reasons today being with family and friends.

Thu, November 27th, 2014
Above 2,500'
1 - Low
Avalanche risk
1 - Low
Avalanche risk
Below Treeline
Below 1,000'
0 - No Rating
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

As stated in the bottom line, the main concern if you venture into the backcountry will be early season/low snow cover hazards. Rocks, stumps, alders, etc. Below is a run down of snow depths vs. elevation:

1,000′ (Turnagain Pass road elevation):  0-3 inches
2,000′ (Treeline):  18″ to 2 feet                                            
2,500′ (Top of Treeline):  2 feet                                           
3,200′ (Above Treeline – Alpine):  3 feet

The good news is a very stout crust exists in the middle of the pack with strong melt-freeze snow below, which is covering up many of the smaller rocks (Photo above). More details from CNFAIC’s field day yesterday are HERE and HERE.

Wind Slab:
In high elevation extreme terrain, off ridgelines and peaks, there is the possibility of finding and triggering a wind slab. Watch for rounded stiff wind deposited snow that feels hollow. Also, be aware of what is below – cliffs/rocks – in the event even a small slab is triggered.

Loose Snow sluffs:
On steep slopes, 40 degrees and above, watch for sluffing in the settled snow from 11/22. Sluffs are expected to be low volume.

Thu, November 27th, 2014

Yesterday we saw broken cloud cover and valley fog obscure much of the mountainous terrain. Winds were light from the Northwest and temperatures were in the mid 20’s F above treeline.

Today, we can expect partly sunny skies with high clouds streaming in from the West. Ridgetop winds are expected to be light and variable. Temperatures have cooled off overnight and are expected to be in the teens near treeline and the low 20’sF on the ridgetops.

Tomorrow, Black Friday, we should see an increase in cloud cover, and possibly a flake or two, as rotating lows in the Bering move west and the associated frontal system begins to spill into Southcentral. This will continue to move our way and give us a chance for snow (to sea level!) Saturday and into Sunday.

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

  Temp Avg (F) Snow (in) Water (in) Snow Depth (in)
Center Ridge (1880′) 23   0   0   18
Summit Lake (1400′) 24 0 0   0  
Alyeska Mid (1700′) 24   0   0   9

RIDGETOP 24-hour data (6am – 6am)

  Temp Avg (F) Wind Dir Wind Avg (mph) Wind Gust (mph)
Sunburst (3812′) 20    W 4   12  
Seattle Ridge (2400′) 19   var   4 11  
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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.