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Winter storm warnings in effect for much of Southeast Alaska, avalanche risk may increase rapidly

Winter storm warnings in effect for much of Southeast Alaska, avalanche risk may increase rapidly
Waterfall near Mendenhall Lake after a snowfall on February 13, 2023. (Andres Javier Camacho / KTOO)

The National Weather Service has issued a winter storm warning Beginning at midnight Wednesday across much of northern and central southeast Alaska, up to 15 inches are expected in Juneau.

NWS meteorologist Edward Liske says the snow will begin to accumulate while many people are sleeping in Juneau.

“By the time you wake up and are ready to go to work, there should already be four to six inches of snow on the ground,” he said.

Liske says people who commute to work should allow extra time for driving on Wednesday mornings.

That snowfall will be accompanied by winds of 35 to 40 mph, which could blow snow and reduce visibility.

“Slow down, prepare, be prepared for slippery, possibly snow-covered roads,” he said.

Accumulations of 8 to 15 inches are possible through late Wednesday in Juneau, Gustavus, Hunah and Haines. The Winter Storm Warning ends at midnight on Wednesday.

Liske says total accumulations are hard to estimate, because they will depend on the density of the ice. He predicts the snow will start out dry and fluffy, but a wintry mix of rain and snow is likely through Wednesday as temperatures warm.

Juno emergency program manager Tom Mattis says the combination would not bode well for an urban avalanche danger.

“If temperatures are rising during a storm, and we’re seeing increased winds during a storm, especially when temperatures rise past the point of freezing, things certainly become unstable very quickly,” he said. Said. “The danger must be growing exponentially.”

Mattis says there are a lot of weak layers in the snowpack that have formed this winter, which means there is a high potential for large avalanches. He encourages people to pay close attention to updates urban avalanche advisory Wednesday morning.

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