ANCHORAGE (KTUU) - The warm winds over last weekend made for some new avalanche danger warnings in the southcentral region that specialist urge people to heed, especially if venturing into the backcountry. Specialists with multiple agencies are reporting similar conditions in different areas across the region.
In the Chugach National Forest, the Chugach Avalanche Center issued a ‘considerable’ threat in parts of the forest including Turnagain Pass. The Anchorage Avalanche Center has issued a ‘very dangerous’ warning in Chugach State Park.
These warnings come after a man died in an avalanche while snow machining Monday afternoon.
Mathew Brunton with the Anchorage Avalanche Center attributes much the increased danger to the recent warm weather last weekend, Feb. 7th – 9th, followed by a snap back to colder temperatures.
He explained that weather caused the top layer of snow to harden into thick slabs of snow. However, because there was a long stretch of cold, dry weather for most of January there is a layer of much looser snow beneath it. Beneath the loose layer is a much harder, slicker ‘bed’ layer.
“The slab, weak layer, bed surface is the typical recipe for dangerous conditions and we have all three of those components in a very textbook form right now,” Brunton said, “the conditions we have right now are the most or at least the second most dangerous sort of conditions that I’ve seen in the last decade.”
Similar reports are coming out of the Chugach National Forest according to specialist Aleph Johnston-Bloom. She said it’s hard to determine how long the danger will last.
“It’s called a ‘persistent slab,’ so this week layer can last for long periods of time,” she said.
Johnston-Bloom said one of the reported crowns of these slabs they’ve observed was 2,000 feet wide.
While the backcountry is the most dangerous place to be for avalanches according to specialists, they acknowledge the danger persists in other areas.
“You can be in the flats below a slope and actually cause an avalanche by collapsing the weak layer from below the slope,” Johnston-Bloom said.
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