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AK Beat: Avalanche warning issued for Turnagain as snowstorm rolls in

Loren Holmes photo

Avalanche warning issued: An avalanche warning has been issued for the Turnagain Arm, and conditions will remain dangerous as a snowstorm is expected to bear down on the Kenai Peninsula and Western Chugach Mountains, according to the Chugach National Forest Avalanche Information Center. The warning will begin 5 p.m. Saturday and stay in place 24 hours. The chance of avalanches will increase as an expected two feet of snow accumulates. It’s been a busy couple of days in Turnagain backcountry, south of Anchorage. On Thursday, a group of skiers triggered at least five disconnected avalanches; no one was hurt. But on Friday, a dog triggered an avalanche on the lower part of Tincan Ridge. Despite the search efforts of a dozen people, the dog was not found and is presumed dead. “These avalanches are sliding on older and deeper weak layers.  Once they get moving, the entire depth of the snowpack can get stripped out.  They are unmanageable in size, will trigger remotely, and can connect across large distances,” wrote the information center on its website. Avalanche experts with the center recommend staying off steep slopes and avoiding complex terrain. 

Two Alaskans with flu perish: Alaska health officials have confirmed the state’s first reported adult deaths due to the flu this season, with two people reported to have died – one in Interior and another in Southcentral, though their names and ages were not disclosed. For the first time, the state Department of Health and Social Services (DHSS) has aligned more closely with national standards in tracking flu-related casualties in Alaska, Dr. Michael Cooper, a state epidemiologist told KTUU.  Unchanged is the health department’s support of immunization as the best protection. In an effort to encourage more Alaskans to get a flu shot, the Division of Public Health will continue to waive a standard $28 administrative fee for the vaccine through the end of March. The state-supplied flu shot is free for all children under 3 as well as residents who don’t have health insurance or have insurance that doesn’t cover vaccines, people who haven’t met their deductibles for vaccination coverage, and people who have no other options in their communities. Nasal spray and vaccine shots are available at public health centers. As of Dec. 28, the state had confirmed 242 cases of the flu, most within the past three weeks. H1N1, or swine flu, is the dominant strain this season and protection against it is included in this year’s vaccine. 

Muni seeks input on Chester Creek trail improvements: The Lanie Fleisher Chester Creek trail is getting a facelift in 2014, but exactly how will be determined by public input. The Municipality of Anchorage announced Friday it would be hosting a series of public meetings to give residents a chance to provide input on what parts of the trail should be improved first. Funding for the $3 million project comes from a $150,000 state grant and a $1.6 million voter approved bond, with future bonds needed to complete the project. The popular 4-mile long Chester Creek Trail was built in the 1970s and over the years has not received any significant upgrades other than basic crack repair. The first meeting is set for Jan. 7 from 5 to 7 p.m. at the Spenard Recreation Center.