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'Considerable' avalanche danger for Turnagain Pass on Sunday

  • Author: Craig Medred
  • Updated: September 29, 2016
  • Published December 9, 2012

Looking to take advantage of all the new snow by heading out in the Chugach National Forest backcountry? Think twice. An avalanche advisory for Turnagain Pass has been issued by the Chugach National Forest Avalanche Information Center.

After Saturday's snowfall and strong winds, the center advises that there is considerable avalanche danger on Sunday, above and below the treeline, for storm and wind-slab avalanches in the Turnagain Arm area, with Turnagain Pass being the center of concerns. The advisory does not apply to places where avalanche mitigation occurs, such as operating ski areas, highways or railroads.

The Avalanche Information Center writes:

Recent new snow and strong wind has created an extremely unstable snowpack and dangerous avalanche conditions exist. Very weak faceted snow sits under the new storm snow and wind slabs making it difficult for any new accumulation to stick to the mountain sides. Human triggered slab avalanches are LIKELY today on slopes steeper than 30 degrees above and below treeline. The wind, snow and natural avalanche activity has abated but the snowpack remains teetering on the edge of release. If you are not certain where avalanche terrain exists, in order to avoid it, travel in the backcountry is not recommended.

Wind-built snow slabs are the primary concern. Saturday's gusts of more than 70 mph in places deposited new and existing snow onto leeward slopes, forming wind slabs that can be cracked and released "with the slightest touch." The slabs were 4 to 10 inches thick as of Saturday afternoon and extremely sensitive.

The Avalanche center writes that staying away from all wind-deposited snow on slopes steeper than 30 degrees is advisable: "Remotely triggering a slope (from below or from a flat area) is possible. Collapsing and cracking should be widespread -- if you are on a slope steep enough, it will probably avalanche."

Saturday's snowstorm was the first storm system in over a month after a long stretch of unseasonable cold. Further accumulation of 1-3 inches is possible on Sunday, and a few more inches possible on Monday.

Read the full advisory.

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