Back to back winter storms to bring avalanche concerns and dangerous winter conditions

Significant snow and windy conditions look to push into the state through the weekend
Published: Dec. 3, 2021 at 11:17 AM AKST
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Freezing fog remains in place across portions of Southcentral Alaska near the Knik Arm, as clearer skies through the night and a warm air inversion allowed for its development. With little in the way to mix out the fog, expect most of the day to see freezing fog stick around. Drivers should be cautious when driving on the roads and always make sure defrosters are in use.

Many areas woke up Friday morning to subzero values, the only exception was immediate coastal regions. Temperatures along the coast remained in the single digits to the lower teens. We’ll see the bitter cold stick around for the first half of the weekend, before a major pattern shift moves into the region. Until then, one more bitter cold night is expected with lows once again falling below zero. It’ll be even colder in the Copper River Basin, near Kenai and into the Valley where temperatures will hover near -20.

Although the weather remains cold and sunny for some, avalanche concerns are still an ongoing issue. As of Friday morning, the avalanche danger for Turnagain Pass has been raised to considerable. Many human triggered avalanches have occurred, which are capable of being hundreds of feet wide. Extreme caution is advised in the backcountry, and backcountry enthusiasts should follow recommended travel advice.

While it’s cold in Southcentral, western Alaska is already in the midst of a winter storm. Multiple areas are under either a blizzard warning, winter weather advisory or wind chill advisory. Winds up to 55 mph are possible throughout the day creating whiteout conditions, leading to downed power lines and dangerous wind chills. Despite temperatures climbing into the single digits and teens, wind chills will remain 20 to 30 below through most of the day. While snow is accompanying the storm, most areas will see less than 5 inches of snow. The storm will fall apart as it moves eastward, leading to sparse snow showers over the Alaska Range, with only passing clouds here in Southcentral.

On the heels of that storm comes a powerful winter storm Sunday. This storm, which is tropical in nature and is the remnants of a typhoon, has plenty of moisture associated with it. As the storm moves into the Bering Sea not only will it bring high winds and high surf, but it will slow the development of ice in the Bering Sea. As the storm continues to advance eastward it could lead to some coastal communities seeing ice pushed ashore. With plenty of moisture to tap into, Western Alaska and Southwest Alaska could see significant snow with this system. While it’s too early to tell how much, it’s possible that some areas could easily see 6 to 10 inches of snow in the Southwest, with localized heavier amounts.

As the storm continues to move into Southcentral, it will bring more avalanche concerns, windy conditions, and even more snow for the area by Sunday night. This storm does bear watching, as it will likely be our first strong winter storm of the season. Along with the snow, it will bring a push of warmer air, with some locations likely climbing above freezing for the first time in nearly a month. The better shot of that will be for areas along the immediate coastline, with inland locations likely topping out near freezing. This will mean any snow that falls will be heavy and wet. Hazardous and difficult driving conditions will arrive in Southcentral as early as late Sunday afternoon, so now is the time to prepare.

While the outlook ahead continues to favor a snowy pattern and rollercoaster ride in temperatures, late next week could bring some of the coldest air of the season. It’s far too early to tell just how cold temperatures will get, but with origins over the Arctic and Russia, the air will be cold. With plenty of snow across the region and limited sunshine, the temperatures won’t moderate much as the spill into the region.

Stay safe this weekend and enjoy what sunshine we do see!

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