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Blizzard watch issued, with Turnagain Pass due to get hit hard

Craig MedredAlaska Dispatch

The National Weather Service has issued a blizzard watch from late Sunday night until Christmas morning from Turnagain Pass north to Portage Valley. Anchorage, however, is forecast to only receive flurries or light snowfall.  

But the affected areas could be pounded with up to 18 inches of snow pushed by winds up to 55 mph that will cut visibility to less than a quarter-mile. 

“Snow will intensify late tonight as winds increase, creating potential blizzard conditions,” according to the watch issued by the National Weather Service on Sunday.  “Blowing snow may produce whiteout conditions at times. Driving may become very difficult.”

Forecasters at the Chugach National Forest Avalanche Information Center are bracing for the storm, too.

“Snow is finally on its way and it has the potential to add up by mid-week,” said forecaster Wendy Wagner in Sunday’s avalance advisory for Turnagain Pass. “A low pressure system developing south of Kodiak is intensifying and will start moving over our region tonight and through Tuesday. Snowfall numbers are looking to be in the 10-16-inch range by Monday night with another system right on its heels, bringing similar snow amounts. This first system is cold enough for snow at all elevations.”

If snowfall reaches Mount Alyeska in Girdwood, it will be welcomed by skiers and snowboarders, who’ve been coping with limited snow and brutal cold much of the month. The average snow depth at the top of Chair 6 is just 31 inches, well below average for the end of December.