Douglas Island Avalanche Forecast RSS

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ARCHIVED FORECAST - All forecasts expire after 24 hours from the posting date/time.
Issued
Tue, March 1st, 2022 - 7:00AM
Expires
Wed, March 2nd, 2022 - 7:00AM
Forecaster
CAAC Staff
Avalanche Warning
Issued: March 3, 2022 6:00 am
Travel in avalanche terrain is not recommended. Avoid being on or beneath all steep slopes.
Conditions Summary

The avalanche danger is CONSIDERABLE above 2500′. New snow and strong winds over the past two days have built sensitive slabs 1-2′ deep or deeper on top of weak surfaces, with a layer of buried surface hoar present throughout most of the advisory area. These storm and wind slabs will remain reactive today despite calm weather. These lingering problems will require cautious terrain use and conservative decision making. As the sun heats up the new snow, natural avalanches will be possible so pay close attention to decreasing stability through the day. The danger is MODERATE between 1000′-2500′, and LOW below 1000′.

PORTAGE/PLACER: These areas received double the snow that was recorded in Girdwood and Turnagain Pass over the past week. Avalanche conditions are very dangerous as a result. Human-triggered avalanches remain very likely today, and extra caution is warranted in these zones.

SUMMIT: Strong winds have created sensitive slabs in the Summit Lake area, which sit on top of a snowpack with very weak layers buried 2-3′ deep. Large avalanches may remain possible today.

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Tue, March 1st, 2022
Recent Avalanches

We triggered a wind slab on a steep west-facing roll at about 1600′ elevation in the Tincan Trees yesterday afternoon. It was on a smaller terrain feature, but the slab was 6-18″ thick, 75′ wide, and ran about 50′. There were some small surface hoar grains on the bed surface.

Avalanche Problem 1
  • Storm Slabs
    Storm Slabs
  • Aspect/Elevation
  • Almost Certain
    Very Likely
    Likely
    Possible
    Unlikely
    Likelihood
  • Historic (D4-5)
    Very Large (D3)
    Large (D2)
    Small (D1)
    Size
Storm Slabs
Storm Slab avalanches are the release of a cohesive layer (a slab) of new snow that breaks within new snow or on the old snow surface. Storm-slabs typically last between a few hours and few days (following snowfall). Storm-slabs that form over a persistent weak layer (surface hoar, depth hoar, or near-surface facets) may be termed Persistent Slabs or may develop into Persistent Slabs.

Aspect/Elevation of the Avalanche Problem
Specialists develop a graphic representation of the potential distribution of a particular avalanche problem across the topography. This aspect/elevation rose is used to indicate where the particular avalanche problem is thought to exist on all elevation aspects. Areas where the avalanche problem is thought to exist are colored grey, and it is less likely to be encountered in areas colored white.

Likelihood of Avalanches
Terms such as "unlikely", "likely", and "certain" are used to define the scale, with the chance of triggering or observing avalanches increasing as we move up the scale. For our purposes, "Unlikely" means that few avalanches could be triggered in avalanche terrain and natural avalanches are not expected. "Certain" means that humans will be able to trigger avalanches on many slopes, and natural avalanches are expected.

Size of Avalanches
Avalanche size is defined by the largest potential avalanche, or expected range of sizes related to the problem in question. Assigned size is a qualitative estimate based on the destructive classification system and requires specialists to estimate the harm avalanches may cause to hypothetical objects located in the avalanche track (AAA 2016, CAA 2014). Under this schema, "Small" avalanches are not large enough to bury humans and are relatively harmless unless they carry people over cliffs or through trees or rocks. Moving up the scale, avalanches become "Large" enough to bury, injure, or kill people. "Very Large" avalanches may bury or destroy vehicles or houses, and "Historic" avalanches are massive events capable of altering the landscape.

Signal Word Size (D scale) Simple Descriptor
Small 1 Unlikely to bury a person
Large 2 Can bury a person
Very Large 3 Can destroy a house
Historic 4 & 5 Can destroy part or all of a village
More info at Avalanche.org

It is looking like the clouds are going to break and winds will die down after four days of stormy weather, but the avalanche danger remains elevated. Heavy snowfall and strong winds have buried a layer of surface hoar 1-2′ deep or deeper, and that setup is likely to remain reactive today. Winds have shifted from easterly to westerly over the past 24 hours, so we can expect to find sensitive wind slabs on all sides of the compass. This has created a challenging setup in the upper snowpack, with potentially two rounds of reactive wind slabs that may be capped by soft snow, making them a little harder to identify. The areas that received more snowfall over the past four days (Portage, Placer, Girdwood) will be more dangerous today. This is especially true for the Squirrel Flats and Skookum areas. The same can be said for upper-elevation start zones near ridgelines, convex rolls, and gullies, which have all seen some kind of wind loading during the storm.

Just to make things a little more interesting, we are expecting to see full sun by mid morning, along with mild temperatures. These new snow instabilities are likely to become more touchy as the snow surface heats up, and there is a chance we could see some natural wet loose avalanches triggering storm and wind slabs by this afternoon.

Long story short, despite the clear weather this is not a ‘game-on’ type of day. We have limited info of avalanche activity during the storm, and what little info we do have is indicating that the layer of buried surface hoar will be a concern. Keep a conservative mindset today, seeking out information from the snowpack before easing out on to steeper slopes. Be on the lookout for red flags like shooting cracks, collapsing, and fresh avalanches. Take the time to hop off your machine or step off the skin track and see how well (or how poorly) the new snow is bonding to the old snow. If you see any concerning signs, stick to low-angle slopes and give the storm snow some more time to settle out.

Deep Persistent Slabs: For the zones with a thinner snowpack around the periphery of our forecast area, this storm has loaded a snowpack with deeper weak layers. This is the case in the Crow Creek, Johnson Pass, Lynx Creek, Silvertip, and Summit Lake areas. It is unlikely, but not impossible, that a person will trigger an avalanche on these deeper layers today. It is still worth keeping this potential for a very large avalanche in mind if you are planning on getting out in any of these zones.

Avalanche Problem 2
  • Deep Persistent Slabs
    Deep Persistent Slabs
  • Almost Certain
    Very Likely
    Likely
    Possible
    Unlikely
    Likelihood
  • Historic (D4-5)
    Very Large (D3)
    Large (D2)
    Small (D1)
    Size
Deep Persistent Slabs
Deep Persistent Slab avalanches are the release of a thick cohesive layer of hard snow (a slab), when the bond breaks between the slab and an underlying persistent weak layer deep in the snowpack. The most common persistent weak layers involved in deep, persistent slabs are depth hoar or facets surrounding a deeply buried crust. Deep Persistent Slabs are typically hard to trigger, are very destructive and dangerous due to the large mass of snow involved, and can persist for months once developed. They are often triggered from areas where the snow is shallow and weak, and are particularly difficult to forecast for and manage.

Likelihood of Avalanches
Terms such as "unlikely", "likely", and "certain" are used to define the scale, with the chance of triggering or observing avalanches increasing as we move up the scale. For our purposes, "Unlikely" means that few avalanches could be triggered in avalanche terrain and natural avalanches are not expected. "Certain" means that humans will be able to trigger avalanches on many slopes, and natural avalanches are expected.

Size of Avalanches
Avalanche size is defined by the largest potential avalanche, or expected range of sizes related to the problem in question. Assigned size is a qualitative estimate based on the destructive classification system and requires specialists to estimate the harm avalanches may cause to hypothetical objects located in the avalanche track (AAA 2016, CAA 2014). Under this schema, "Small" avalanches are not large enough to bury humans and are relatively harmless unless they carry people over cliffs or through trees or rocks. Moving up the scale, avalanches become "Large" enough to bury, injure, or kill people. "Very Large" avalanches may bury or destroy vehicles or houses, and "Historic" avalanches are massive events capable of altering the landscape.

Signal Word Size (D scale) Simple Descriptor
Small 1 Unlikely to bury a person
Large 2 Can bury a person
Very Large 3 Can destroy a house
Historic 4 & 5 Can destroy part or all of a village
More info at Avalanche.org

In the far northern and southern portions of our forecast area (i.e. Crow Creek, Lynx Creek, Silvertip Creek) the snowpack is thinner and the potential for triggering a large avalanche on a layer of facets from November exists. Yesterday we found the November facets only 6″ down from the surface in a wind scoured area near Crow Creek. This was quite surprising and indicates that human triggered avalanches could be possible on this deeper weak layer if a failure is initiated in a thin spot of the snowpack. Recent avalanche activity on this layer has been associated with significant snowfall events and since these thinner snowpack areas of the forecast region have not received much snow the past three days the likelihood of an avalanche on this layer is relatively low

Avalanche Problem 3
  • Wind Slabs
    Wind Slabs
  • Aspect/Elevation
  • Almost Certain
    Very Likely
    Likely
    Possible
    Unlikely
    Likelihood
  • Historic (D4-5)
    Very Large (D3)
    Large (D2)
    Small (D1)
    Size
Wind Slabs
Wind Slab avalanches are the release of a cohesive layer of snow (a slab) formed by the wind. Wind typically transports snow from the upwind sides of terrain features and deposits snow on the downwind side. Wind slabs are often smooth and rounded and sometimes sound hollow, and can range from soft to hard. Wind slabs that form over a persistent weak layer (surface hoar, depth hoar, or near-surface facets) may be termed Persistent Slabs or may develop into Persistent Slabs.

Likelihood of Avalanches
Terms such as "unlikely", "likely", and "certain" are used to define the scale, with the chance of triggering or observing avalanches increasing as we move up the scale. For our purposes, "Unlikely" means that few avalanches could be triggered in avalanche terrain and natural avalanches are not expected. "Certain" means that humans will be able to trigger avalanches on many slopes, and natural avalanches are expected.

Size of Avalanches
Avalanche size is defined by the largest potential avalanche, or expected range of sizes related to the problem in question. Assigned size is a qualitative estimate based on the destructive classification system and requires specialists to estimate the harm avalanches may cause to hypothetical objects located in the avalanche track (AAA 2016, CAA 2014). Under this schema, "Small" avalanches are not large enough to bury humans and are relatively harmless unless they carry people over cliffs or through trees or rocks. Moving up the scale, avalanches become "Large" enough to bury, injure, or kill people. "Very Large" avalanches may bury or destroy vehicles or houses, and "Historic" avalanches are massive events capable of altering the landscape.

Signal Word Size (D scale) Simple Descriptor
Small 1 Unlikely to bury a person
Large 2 Can bury a person
Very Large 3 Can destroy a house
Historic 4 & 5 Can destroy part or all of a village
More info at Avalanche.org

Stormy conditions are returning to the area, with increasing winds this morning ahead of a round of precipitation that could bring over a foot of new snow to Turnagain Pass and Girdwood and 2-3′ to Portage and Placer by tomorrow morning. The avalanche danger is expected to rise as the storm progresses, and today the main factor determining stability will be the timing of the storm. Winds are currently blowing 10-20 mph out of the east with gusts to 45 mph, but are expected to pick up to 20-40 mph during the day. While the most intense precipitation will likely be overnight, we can still expect to see 3-5″ snow by the end of the day today with slightly more in Portage and Placer. Combined with the strong winds, this will be enough to make human-triggered avalanches up to a foot deep likely, especially in the upper elevations.

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