While the higher elevations of the Chugach Mountains in Alaska received unbelievable amounts of snowfall last week, an estimated 28-feet in places, at lower elevations that precipitation fell as rain.
What a week! The historic Halloween storm that rolled in late on Oct 29th is finally loosening its grip. Highest precipitation rates were on Oct 30 and 31 with records being set in Portage Valley and Girdwood. Portage saw almost 28″ of rain from Oct 29 – Nov 4 and Girdwood 19″, seriously?! That’s a good 20 feet above 3,500′ in those areas. Girdwood saw several roads washed out and one very large landslide near Cooper Landing closed the Sterling Highway for nearly 36 hours. For that same time period, Turnagain Pass saw 8.5″ of rain below 2,000′, equaling around 8-9 feet of snow above 3,500′. Dang. A widespread avalanche cycle ensued, of course. With such cloudy conditions, the evidence mostly lies at the bottom of slide paths in snow-free zones where countless white piles of debris now sit.
At Alyeska Resort, in Girdwood, AK, where the base sits at 250-feet, a record-breaking 19-inches of rain fell in a six day period, smashing the previous record of 12″ in 1973. West of Anchorage, Portage saw a record-breaking 28″ of rain.
The Chugach National Forest Avalanche Information Center is warning backcountry skiers of the potential for avalanches at higher elevations, above 3,500-feet, where that precipitation fell as snow––15-feet of snow to be exact.
UPDATE for the Turnagian (sic) Pass area posted to our advisory page at chugachavalanche.org – check it out!!
In short, the mountains were hammered with a warm storm beginning Oct 29th and ending a few days ago. This brought 8 – 12 feet (yes feet…) of snow above 3,500′ to Turnagain and closer to 15 feet or more in the Girdwood area. We are now headed into the ‘post historic Halloween storm’ phase with possibly some clearing skies this coming week. Remember to pay close attention to those Red Flags… specifically, recent avalanches, cracking in the snow around you and collapsing (whumpfing) in the snowpack. Safe travel is also critical – exposing one person at a time, watching your partners closely, planning your routes carefully. Let us know what you see if you get out when skies clear!
Photos: Countless debris piles can still be seen in snow free zones at the bottom of most avalanche paths from the height of the storm. Merrick Mordal dug an impressive 9 foot hole to the ground in Tincan’s Hippy bowl at 3500’ on Nov 3rd.