Turnagain avalanche danger high as ‘windy, wet and warm’ front moves through

Monday, 04 December 2017, 05:27:41 AM. A special weather statement that extends through Monday predicts winds gusting to 70 mph along Turnagain Arm and triggered avalanche warnings for Turnagain Pass.

A potent weather system moving into Southcentral Sunday is expected to bring windy, warmer conditions from Prince William Sound to Willow and high avalanche danger for Turnagain Pass.

The system will bring unsettled weather to much of Southcentral through Monday, according to a special weather statement the National Weather Service issued Sunday morning.

Places along Turnagain Arm and Portage Valley could see gusts up to 70 mph.

A winter storm mapping by NOAA Dec. 3, 2017 A winter storm mapping by NOAA Dec. 3, 2017

Anchorage itself is expected to escape most of the wind and get little precipitation, forecaster Kyle Van Peursem said.

But a dump of snow is forecast for higher elevations above 1,000 feet, raising the risk of avalanche as heavy new accumulation falls on a generally weak, unstable base of snow.

The Chugach National Forest Avalanche Information Center issued a high avalanche danger warning for popular backcountry destinations at Turnagain Pass starting Sunday.

The storm is expected to bring 10 to 20 inches of snow Sunday and another 10 to 20 inches Monday, according to the center.

"Travel in avalanche terrain during this storm is not recommended," avalanche forecaster Wendy Wagner warned in a message recorded Sunday morning.

Winds funneled through other terrain gaps like the Knik River in the Valley could gust to 40 mph on Monday, according to Van Peursem. Generally, strong winds funneled through gaps in terrain will occur from the Copper River Basin through the Matanuska Valley to the Kenai Peninsula.

The forecast also calls for gale to storm-force winds across much of the northern Gulf of Alaska and many coastal marine areas through Sunday night.

The weather system moved up from the south and was centered a few hundred miles south of Kodiak as of about noon Sunday, but a warm front extended ahead of it and was already hitting Prince William Sound, Van Peursem said.

The center of the system will move inland across Southcentral Monday afternoon, creating strong southerly winds from Cook Inlet to across the Anchorage Bowl, the forecast states.

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