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Sun, March 17th, 2019 - 7:00AM
Mon, March 18th, 2019 - 7:00AM
Wendy Wagner
Avalanche risk The Bottom Line

Another storm hitting the region today will keep the avalanche danger  HIGH. Large and dangerous avalanches continue to release naturally as rain, snow and wind impact the area. Avalanches releasing in the high elevations have been sending debris to valley floors, which is expected again today.  Travel in avalanche terrain is not recommended.  Avoid slopes 30 degrees or steeper, including runout zones.  

 – Although precipitation rates should be less today in the interior Kenai, large to very large human triggered avalanches remain very likely. Up to 30″ of snow has fallen onto a very weak base over the past few days.  Travel in avalanche terrain is not recommended in these zones.

SEWARD/LOST LAKE  –  Large and dangerous natural avalanches  have been observed in this area. Continued rain, wind and snow at the high elevations will keep the avalanche danger elevated and  travel in avalanche terrain is not recommended.  

Special Announcements
  • There will be intermittent traffic delays tomorrow, Monday  March 18, 2019 on the Seward Highway for avalanche hazard reduction work. Near mileposts 23 to 20, on the Seward Highway, between Crown Point and Snow River.  Motorists should expect delays of up to 45 minutes between 12:00 noon and 2:00 PM.  Updates will be posted on the 511 system.    http://511.alaska.gov/

  • Turnagain Pass 20 years later:  On Saturday, March 23rd from 12-2pm swing by the Turnagain Pass moto lot and meet the CNFAIC avalanche forecasters, bring and test your avalanche rescue gear, ask questions and learn about the history of Turnagain Pass and the avalanche center. We’ll even have a few beacons buried so you can test your skills before heading into the hills!
Sun, March 17th, 2019
Above 2,500'
4 - High
Avalanche risk
4 - High
Avalanche risk
Below Treeline
Below 1,000'
4 - High
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
  • Storm Slabs
    Storm Slabs
  • Certain
    Very Likely
  • Historic (D4-5)
    Very Large (D3)
    Large (D2)
    Small (D1)
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.

Likelihood of Avalanches
Terms such as "unlikely", "likely", and "certain" are used to define the scale, with the chance of triggering or observing avalanches increasing as we move up the scale. For our purposes, "Unlikely" means that few avalanches could be triggered in avalanche terrain and natural avalanches are not expected. "Certain" means that humans will be able to trigger avalanches on many slopes, and natural avalanches are expected.

Size of Avalanches
Avalanche size is defined by the largest potential avalanche, or expected range of sizes related to the problem in question. Assigned size is a qualitative estimate based on the destructive classification system and requires specialists to estimate the harm avalanches may cause to hypothetical objects located in the avalanche track (AAA 2016, CAA 2014). Under this schema, "Small" avalanches are not large enough to bury humans and are relatively harmless unless they carry people over cliffs or through trees or rocks. Moving up the scale, avalanches become "Large" enough to bury, injure, or kill people. "Very Large" avalanches may bury or destroy vehicles or houses, and "Historic" avalanches are massive events capable of altering the landscape.

Signal Word Size (D scale) Simple Descriptor
Small 1 Unlikely to bury a person
Large 2 Can bury a person
Very Large 3 Can destroy a house
Historic 4 & 5 Can destroy part or all of a village
More info at Avalanche.org

Temperatures are rising as yet another storm moves into the region. As of this morning, rain is falling up to 1,500′ with wet snow above this. The rain line is expected to rise as high as 2,500′ in places and drop around an inch of water over the day. The higher elevations are expected to see up to a foot of new snow. This will give the mountains another shock to the system as rain-on-snow could induce natural wet avalanches on steep slopes below 2,500′. Snowfall and strong winds at the upper elevations will continue to load slopes and natural dry snow avalanches are expected. As storm after storm keeps adding more snow to these high elevations, the avalanches are becoming larger, sending debris further and nothing to mess with. There is anywhere from 5-8+ feet of settled storm snow from over the past week and with more snow on the way, it is another day to leave the mountains to themselves.

With obscured skies limiting visibility, it’s difficult to gauge the extent of naturally occurring avalanches over the past week. However, all it takes is a look at the bottom of avalanche paths and you’ll find most are filled with debris. Check out the video below, courtesy of Dwayne Clevenger, that shows debris covering the trail into Lynx Creek drainage. The message here is, avalanche terrain is not only on slopes over 30 degrees, it also includes runout zones (flat areas under steep slopes). Other trails, such as Byron Glacier trail or Johnson Pass trail, run through avalanche terrain and are examples of areas to be avoided during stormy weather.  

Big thanks to Dwayne Clevenger for this video of avalanche debris covering the Lynx Ck trail on Mar 16, link HERE.


5′ settled storm snow video link HERE.


Around 5 feet of snow has piled up since March 8th. The snowpack has almost doubled since then, yet is settling fast with the rain and warm temperatures. 


Storm Totals (Wed 6am – Sun 6am): 

  • Turnagain Pass 1800′:  25″ — 4.9″ SWE  (As seen above, 5′ of settled storm snow was found at 2,100′)
  • Girdwood-Alyeska Midway 1700′: ~30″ — 4.3″ SWE
  • Summit Lake 1400′: ~16″ — 1.6″ SWE
  • Portage Valley 95′: ~6-8+ ft snow in upper elevations — 9.25″ rain 
Sun, March 17th, 2019

Yesterday:   Another warm stormy day was over the area. Skies were mostly obscured with light rain falling below 800 – 1,100′ and moist snow above this. Roughly 1″ of rain fell in Girdwood while just over 1/2″ of rain fell on Turnagain Pass; Portage Valley was the winner with 3″ of rain. Snow amounts can be equated to 12-18″ at the higher elevations in Girdwood and 5-8″ at the higher elevations on Turnagain. Ridgetop winds have been easterly in the 30-40mph range with gusts up to 70mph. Temperatures reached the mid 30’s F at 1,000′ and the upper 20’s F along the ridgelines.  

Today:   Another wave of precipitation and wind is hitting us today. This storm front is warmer and 1″ of rain is forecast to fall up to 2,500′ with a foot of moist snow in the Alpine. Ridgetop winds will rise into the 40-50’s mph with stronger gusts from the east. Temperatures will continue to climb, ridgelines could see 32F while 1,000′ elevations, along the road at Turnagain Pass, may push to 40F.  

Tomorrow:   This storm will be slowly moving out tomorrow and light precipitation is expected with decreasing easterly ridgetop winds. Skies may clear enough to see the higher elevations. Weather models are showing another warm system impacting the region Tuesday night into Wednesday with continued rain/snow and wind.  

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

  Temp Avg (F) Snow (in) Water (in) Snow Depth (in)
Center Ridge (1880′) 33   3   0.6   98  
Summit Lake (1400′) 36   0   0.1   34  
Alyeska Mid (1700′) 33   2   1.2    87

RIDGETOP 24-hour data (6am – 6am)

  Temp Avg (F) Wind Dir Wind Avg (mph) Wind Gust (mph)
Sunburst (3812′) 25   NE   34   71  
Seattle Ridge (2400′) 30   *N/A   *N/A     *N/A    
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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.