Avalanche Forecast Cascades - South East

Date Issued: Valid Until:

Northwest Avalanche Center NWAC, Northwest Avalanche Center

Avalanche Forecast

Thu Apr. 11th · 11:07AM

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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You can trigger small wet loose avalanches on very steep slopes with shallow new snow during periods of sun or warming. Recently formed wind slabs may linger above treeline on shaded slopes near the Cascade crest. Watch for low snow coverage and weak wet snow below treeline with open creeks and exposed rocks.

Discussion

Snow and Avalanche Discussion

Low elevations and areas further east of the Cascade crest have or are melting out quickly. 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. It's in these areas where recently formed wind slabs should be healing but continue to approach wind loaded slopes found in higher terrain cautiously. 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.

In areas that have received fresh snowfall over the last week, think about the potential for wet loose avalanches on very steep slopes Friday. If the sun comes out, look for pinwheels and rollerballs as clear signs the potential for shallow wet loose avalanche activity is increasing. Monitor the surface snow throughout the day and change your aspect and move to lower angled terrain if you find wet surface snow deeper than 6”. Be especially cognizant of the consequences of even a small avalanche around terrain traps like gullies or cliff bands.

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. 

Forecast Schedule and No Rating

At this time, we do not have enough specific snowpack information to issue an avalanche hazard rating for the East Slopes South zone. However, even when No Rating is applied, applicable avalanche conditions and backcountry travel advice will be provided throughout the season. When weather systems produce very dangerous avalanche conditions in adjacent zones, NWAC will issue an avalanche warning for this zone as well.

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