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Backcountry avalanche warning in effect for Western Chugach, Kenai Mountains

The Chugach National Forest Avalanche Information Center issued an immediate broadcast stating...
The Chugach National Forest Avalanche Information Center issued an immediate broadcast stating that there are “very dangerous avalanche conditions” for both mountains in and around Girdwood, Portage, Turnagain Pass, Summit Lake, Lost Lake and Seward.(KTUU)
Published: Apr. 14, 2021 at 7:54 AM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - A 24-hour backcountry avalanche warning is in effect for the Western Chugach and Kenai Mountains region as of 6 a.m. Wednesday.

The Chugach National Forest Avalanche Information Center issued an immediate broadcast stating that there are “very dangerous avalanche conditions” for both mountains in and around Girdwood, Portage, Turnagain Pass, Summit Lake, Lost Lake and Seward.

The broadcast reported heavy snowfall and rain combined with strong winds created widespread areas of unstable snow.

Both human triggered and natural large avalanches are likely on slopes steeper than 30 degrees. It added that debris from avalanches above may run into valley bottoms. If an avalanche occurs, it may run long distances.

The broadcast recommends people not to travel in those specific avalanche terrains, including runout zones.

Areas with steep slopes above should be avoided, such as the Byron Glacier Trail and other summer trails that pass under avalanche terrain.

Outside the backcountry, roof avalanches are likely. The broadcast recommends paying attention to children, people and pets under roofs shedding snow.

It added that similar avalanche danger may exist outside that specific coverage area.

Alaska’s Source Weather Team said that an incoming storm will likely keep avalanche concerns on the higher side until the end of the week, as it normally takes 24 to 48 hours once a storm passes for conditions to greatly improve.

The information center noted daily forecasts will continue throughout this weekend due to weather forecasts and the elevated avalanche danger in the area.

Over the past two days, the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities has performed avalanche hazard reduction along the Seward Highway in order to force snow loads down to lessen the threat of a large natural avalanche.

The department also said there will be intermittent traffic delays on Wednesday due to avalanche hazard reduction taking place on Seward Highway between milepost 37 and milepost 45. Motorists should expect 45-minute delays from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Additional updates will be posted on the 511 system.

The department announced Wednesday that it plans a road closure for Thane Road on Thursday from 3 p.m. to 6 pm, depending on the weather. An extended road closure may be necessary if avalanche debris reaches the roadway.

In addition, the information center plans to switch its schedule to four days a week beginning April 20, as the forecast season and its funding wind down. The center said it will only be staffed on Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday.

Editor’s note: Additional information from the CNFAIC avalanche forecast for Turnagain Pass and DOT&PF announcement for Thane Road was included.

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