Juneau avalanche danger is “high”

By December 13, 2013Community, Outdoors
Thane Road avalanche sign

Thane Road avalanche sign on Dec. 13, 2013. Photo by Matt Miller/KTOO News

Avalanche danger in Juneau is high right now.

According to the City and Borough of Juneau urban avalanche advisory, the danger is a four on a scale of 1-5.

Tom Mattice is the city’s avalanche forecaster. He was up at Eaglecrest Ski Area Friday morning, testing snow pack conditions.

“Right now we’re going through an avalanche cycle. Avalanches are occurring,” Mattice said. “There’s widespread natural avalanches, and also human triggered avalanches are possible. So people walking up into avalanche zones or heading out into the mountains, it’s easy to trigger avalanches right now.”

Snowslide Creek

Snowslide Creek off Thane Road on Dec. 13, 2013. Photo by Matt Miller/KTOO News

Mattice says slides have been reported along Thane Road and in some of the known avalanche chutes in town. That includes Chop Gully, which slides down onto the Flume Trail. Avalanche paths above the Behrends Avenue and White subdivisions near Juneau Douglas High School are also likely to see slides, he said.

Mattice says he’s not overly concerned about the size of potential avalanches, because right now at least there’s not a lot of snow. He puts the size danger at a three out of five.

“I assume that we’re going to see widespread activity, but I assume they will be moderate in size,” he said. “So I don’t think the urban environment has to worry too much. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t pay attention to it.”

Mattice says if you’re heading outdoors this weekend, you better know whether you’re in avalanche country.

“If you’re never in an avalanche zone, you don’t have a problem,” he said. “But I would not want to be at the bottom of some of the bigger avalanche paths in the community this weekend.”

The National Weather Service is forecasting rain and snow this weekend and into early next week. Temperatures should increase Saturday and Sunday before cooling off on Monday.

In other weather related news, Friday was the third straight day Alaska Electric Light and Power crews responded to numerous outages caused by the heavy, wet snow. Most of the outages occurred in the Mendenhall Valley and the north end of the road system. Most were caused by trees and branches falling into power lines.

Alaska Airlines experienced delays with some flights getting into Juneau.

Juneau police report a handful of car accidents, none of them major.

This story has been updated with quotes from Tom Mattice, a new weather forecast, and photos.

Avalanche danger scale

Chart courtesy American Avalanche Association.

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