Avalanche Forecast Cascades - South East

Date Issued: Valid Until:

Northwest Avalanche Center NWAC, Northwest Avalanche Center

Avalanche Forecast

Sat Apr. 13th · 11:41AM

Alpine

Danger Ratings Below Threshold

Treeline

Danger Ratings Below Threshold

Below Treeline

Danger Ratings Below Threshold

Alpine

Danger Ratings Below Threshold

Treeline

Danger Ratings Below Threshold

Below Treeline

Danger Ratings Below Threshold

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Snow and westerly wind will favor mountains near the Cascade Crest. You can trigger fresh wind slab avalanches near ridges at upper elevations. It may be easy to trigger loose wet avalanches by midday where you find fresh snow on east through south through west aspects.

Discussion

Snow and Avalanche Discussion

Low elevations and areas further east of the Cascade crest have are well on their way to melting out or have melted completely. Conditions transition quickly near the Cascade crest and above treeline where winter has recently returned with several rounds of snow and wind over the last week including the most recent round Saturday afternoon through Sunday. It's on steep lee slopes in these areas where fresh or recently formed wind slabs may be found. Steer around steep unsupported slopes with wind-drifted snow cautiously, feeling for firm or hollow sounding snow as a sign that wind slabs may be present. You can stay safe by traveling on ridges, wind-scoured areas and any slope less than 35 degrees.

Radiation and daytime warming may weaken snow surfaces once again. Watch for changing conditions throughout the day. You may be able to trigger wet loose avalanches on slopes over 35 degrees as the surface snow warms. Even without clear skies, the strong April sun will warm the snow through the clouds on sun-exposed slopes. While these avalanches are typically easy to predict, it’s important to be aware of the consequences when you are in avalanche terrain. Wet loose avalanches can be forceful and can injure you or push you into terrain traps like rocks or trees. Be observant and look out for any triggered avalanches as you travel on suspect slopes. Stop and regroup out from under slopes that others are traveling on.

Spring hazards abound. Cliff bands, open creeks, exposed or barely covered rocks and trees, etc, These hazards would amplify the consequences of any size avalanche. 

NWAC Spring 2019 Forecast Schedule: Daily avalanche forecasts will end Sunday, April 14th. Look for regional Avalanche and Snowpack Summaries every Friday at noon through May 24th.  Avalanche warnings will be issued as needed throughout the Spring if unusually dangerous avalanche conditions develop. 

Snowpack Discussion

April 9th, 2019

Spring Conditions

The snowpack and weather have shifted solidly to spring-like conditions. A major warm-up started in mid-March with a prolonged period of strong sun and warm temperatures. This created a major difference between the snowpack on sunny slopes and that on shaded aspects. More recently, warm, wet, and sometimes weak spring storms have brought more rain than snow. The bulk of the precipitation with these storms focused on the southern forecast zones. Even so, mid-elevation rain established a dramatic snow line (about 4-4,500ft) below which the snowpack is minimal to non-existent in most zones. Going into the second week in April, intense snow and wind drove a prolonged period of High danger at Mt Hood.

A crown of a very large avalanche (D3+) above Mt. Hood Meadows resort. 04/08/2019. Photo Credit: Peter Moore.

Challenging Weather Forecasts

The Cascades have been experiencing unsettled spring weather with rain to many low and mid-elevation slopes and snow at upper elevations. Spring weather forecasts in the Cascades are notoriously challenging. With these storms, the weather models have been inconsistent and the accuracy has been limited to 12-24 hours, at best. A trend has been significant precipitation amounts for the Mount Hood area and other south-central Cascade volcanoes. 

Very bare southeast aspects of Rock Mtn/Nason Ridge. April 2nd. Photo: Josh Hirshberg

Shrinking Snowpack

From the peak height of snow in mid to late February through early April, mountain weather stations in the 4,000-5,000ft range showed an average of 27% decrease in height of snow. The percentage decrease ranged from 22-29%. This year's spring snowmelt is much earlier than normal. If you’re traveling in the mountains, the loss of snow coverage is most noticeable on southerly, sun-exposed slopes and below 4,000ft. On northerly aspects and slopes above 5,500ft, the snowpack has seen less dramatic changes and has even maintained some dry layers. On upper elevation shaded slopes there’s still potential for large wet slab avalanches with prolonged warm temperatures or high elevation rain events.

A natural loose wet avalanche (D1), Lichtenberg Mtn, N, 4,850ft. 4/7/2019. Photo: Will Govus

Spring avalanche considerations

As you head into the mountains there are a few questions to ask yourself common to spring avalanche conditions:

  1. Can you trigger avalanches due to new snow?

    1. If so, would they be storm slabs or wind slabs? And where?

  2. Can you trigger avalanches due to warming or rain?

    1. Will recent snow be warmed enough to result in loose wet avalanches?

    2. Will these avalanches be predictable point releases or more destructive wet slabs or gouging loose wet avalanches?

    3. What are the recent high and low temperatures and the forecasted temperatures during the time you’ll be in the mountains?

    4. How is the cloud cover contributing to the melting or freezing of surface snow? Did clear skies allow for a sufficient overnight freeze? Will the sun be strong enough to weaken surface layers?

Debris from a natural loose wet avalanche (D2), Lichtenberg Mtn, SW, 5,000ft. 4/7/2019. Photo: Josh Hirshberg

Other Considerations

In addition to daily avalanche hazard, the early snowmelt has created other travel considerations. Some roads and lower elevation slopes may not have enough continuous snow coverage for travel on snow machines. Holes melted around rocks, trees, and creeks could create a fall hazard. When nighttime temperatures and cloud cover allow for surface freezes, bring appropriate equipment to mitigate slip and fall hazard on steep slopes.

The last daily avalanche forecast for all zones will be issued for April 14th. Statewide mountain weather forecast and weekly avalanche condition advisories will continue through May. The weather station data is available year round. Keep checking the advisories and help us out by submitting observations when you are in the mountains.

Glide avalanches and holes opening up in rocky terrain on an east aspect of Mount Herman. 4/3/19 Photo: Andrew Kiefer