Avalanche danger high in Turnagain Pass, Chugach Mountains, other areas

ANCHORAGE (KTUU) - There will be dangerous avalanche conditions this weekend in Turnagain Pass, and other areas of Southcentral Alaska according to the Chugach National Forest Avalanche Center in Girdwood.

A Special Avalanche Bulletin issued by the center is in effect from 4 p.m. Friday, March 9 through 5 p.m. Sunday, March 11. It affects Turnagain Pass and areas in and around Eastern Turnagain Arm, including the Kenai and Western Chugach Mountains.

"It's a little bit of a recipe for folks to pay attention, not to be in avalanche terrain," said Wendy Wagner of the U.S. Forest Service. "You really need to know what you're doing if you're going to navigate through the mountains whether that's on your snow machine or your skis."

The area has seen 2 to 4 feet of fresh snow on top of an unstable base. Human-triggered large avalanches are likely on slopes steeper than 30 degrees, the Center warns.

The avalanche center says people who want to recreate in these areas prepare by choosing terrain that is flat or less than 30 degrees in steepness, with nothing steeper above you. If skies clear for travel into the alpine elevations, the center urges careful snowpack evaluation, cautious route-finding and conservative decision-making to identify and avoid unstable slopes.

"It's a good time to stay out of the backcountry," Wagner said. "If you know what avalanche terrain is, then you really need to use those skills this weekend."

Other areas not covered by the center could still see similar avalanche danger, the group warns.

Click here to find the closest avalanche center to your recreational area.

While the avalanche warning does not apply to ski areas or areas above highways, where avalanche mitigation is performed, the heavy snowfall is also causing travel troubles for drivers. A crash on the Seward Highway closed the highway near Bird for a short period of time on Friday. The State Department of Transportation urges drivers to use chains to drive through Turnagain Pass.

"In Turnagain Pass, the crews are just trying to maintain two lanes," said Shannon McCarthy, with DOT. She said 2 feet of snow fell overnight, and another 9 inches had fallen since then.

"If you have to travel, just be prepared," McCarthy said.

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