Avalanche danger reduced, may move higher today

Posted: Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The City and Borough of Juneau reduced the avalanche danger faced by the city from “high” to “considerable” Monday morning, but that decrease may be short lived.

Tom Mattice, the city’s avalanche forecaster, stated on the city’s website slower precipitation rates on Saturday and Sunday allowed the snowpack in the mountains around Juneau to settle and bond.

Natural avalanches were widespread around Juneau this weekend, he wrote.

The reduced danger does not eliminate the possibility of natural avalanches, and human-caused slides remain likely, he wrote.

“Many areas are quite stable and with good terrain selection you could travel in the backcountry,” Mattice wrote. “Yet the mousetrap has been set. There is a weak layer with low density snows down to about 35-40 (centimeters, 14-16 inches) deep under high density snow so firm you can only barely stick a pencil into it. This shows us that brick on top of those (champagne) glasses. They can hold weight, but the question is how much.”

With the danger at “considerable” levels, backcountry travel is only recommended for groups of three or more with good snowpack stability evaluation skills, Mattice wrote.

Precipitation levels are expected to increase today and Wednesday, which could bump the danger level back into the “high” category.

Avalanche danger is slotted into four levels on the city’s website, from “low” to “high.” “Moderate” is the second-lowest range, followed by “considerable.”

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