Chugach National Forest Avalanche Center forecasters go out in the elements everyday. On Friday, Wendy Wagner and John Fitzgerald went out to get a sense of how much new snow was up in the Turnagain Pass mountain range.
Earlier in the day it was raining, but as Friday drew on, the snow fell. That created a hazardous combination.
With warmer temperatures, “we got a lot of precipitation in the form of rain and snow and we had a lot of wind,” said John Fitzgerald with CNFAC. “Those three things have made avalanche conditions very unstable.”
The warmer than usual November and December made for a shaky first snow layer, and now, snow is building up on top of that.
“Right now it's rapid loading. That's not helping things, but if we just have gradual loading on top of that foundation, eventually it will not become a problem,” Fitzgerald said.
For the Seward Highway, inviting paths for avalanches sneak down many of the mountain faces, but the state is doing all it can to mitigate any risk of avalanche.
“We will keep getting new snow and that will keep our hazard elevated for a while, but there's potential for the hazard to stay elevated for quite some time,” Fitzgerald said.
That time could be days or week, but for Saturday, the message is simply, don't go out in avalanche terrain.