Blizzard causes dangerous driving conditions and high avalanche danger in Turnagain Pass
High winds and heavy snow brought white-out conditions from Portage to Seward.
ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Local drivers recommend staying out of Turnagain Pass until the snow clears and avalanche forecasters recommend avoiding the backcountry until the snowpack stabilizes, which could take several days.
Snow started falling Tuesday night along the Kenai Peninsula and in Portage Valley, which continued most of Wednesday. By early afternoon, more than a foot had accumulated in Seward, with snow coming down at a rate of 2 inches per hour. Peak winds climbed over 60 mph near Turnagain Pass and near the Portage Glacier Visitor Center.
Drivers who traveled the Seward highway through the pass said the conditions were dangerous.
“I‘ve lived here my whole life and it’s the worst it’s ever been,” said Carrie Adams, a Kenai Peninsula resident. “You can’t see the road, it’s all white. And there’s cars stopped in the middle of the road because they can’t go up the hill. The trucks are trying to put on chains, but I don’t even think they’ll get going. So don’t go on the pass.”
A Blizzard Warning was in effect for the extreme snow and wind from Portage to Turnagain Pass and south to Sterling Highway. The Blizzard warning expired at 6 p.m. as the storm is moving east and conditions will start to slowly improve. Be prepared for continued snow showers and breezy winds in the area through Thursday.
An Avalanche Warning is in effect through at least Thursday morning for Girdwood, Portage, Turnagain Pass, Moose Pass and Seward. The Chugach National Forest Avalanche Information Center issued the warning because of the extreme snow and wind causing dangerous avalanche conditions. The warning says both human and natural large avalanches are likely on slopes steeper than 30 degrees. They recommend staying out of the backcountry until the snowpack stabilizes, which could be into next week. Roof avalanches are also likely.
“So right now while the weather is really active, we’re expecting to see a lot of natural activity,” said Andrew Schauer, Chugach National Forecast Avalanche Information Center lead avalanche forecaster. “It’s really in your face dangerous. But then once the weather starts to settle out, it’s going to remain likely that people can trigger big avalanches with all this snow we just had, even if we’re not still getting really heavy snowfall on strong winds. So it’s going to remain dangerous for a few days still.”
Stay with the Alaska’s Weather Source team of meteorologists for the latest weather conditions.
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