Mt Hood

Issued: 6:00 PM PST Monday, February 8, 2016
by Kenny Kramer

NWAC avalanche forecasts apply to backcountry avalanche terrain in the Olympics, Washington Cascades and Mt Hood area. These forecasts do not apply to developed ski areas, avalanche terrain affecting highways and higher terrain on the volcanic peaks above the Cascade crest level.

Two skiers were caught in an avalanche in the Crystal backcountry Saturday. Both were partially buried and sustained injuries. See the West Slopes of the Cascades Forecast Discussion for details of the accident. 

Another warm and sunny day with freezing levels above 12,000 feet Tuesday will keep the avalanche danger focused on loose wet avalanches. Steeper solar slopes should be the most likely places for natural or skier triggered loose wet avalanches. Solar slopes involve more than just due south aspects as we head further into February, including east in the morning and southwest to west facing by afternoon. 

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Avalanche Problems for Tuesday

Loose Weti

Loose wet avalanches occur where water is running through the snowpack, and release at or below the trigger point. Avoid terrain traps such as cliffs, gullies, or tree wells. Exit avalanche terrain when you see pinwheels, roller balls, a slushy surface, or during rain-on-snow events.

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Wind Slabi

Wind slabs can take up to a week to stabilize. They are confined to lee and cross-loaded terrain features and can be avoided by sticking to sheltered or wind scoured areas.

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Snowpack Analysis:

Weather and Snowpack

A pair of fronts crossed the Northwest on Wednesday and Thursday. NWAC stations at Mt Hood for the 2 days ending Friday morning had 18-20 inches of snowfall.

Friday saw a warm system with strong winds bring rain up to near treeline (above 5000 feet) on Mt. Hood before cooling Friday night and depositing about 3 inches of new snow by early Saturday morning. 

The warmest weather of the season is upon us Monday, Feb. 8th. Temperatures on Mt Hood reached the mid 40's to 50's Sunday and have warmed further Monday, ranging from the lower 50's to near 60! If reached 59 F at 7300 feet Monday afternoon! This is causing significant snowpack settlement, and wet snow conditions, especially on solar aspects by Monday afternoon.

Recent Observations

The Meadows pro-patrol reported little activity Friday with isolated wind or storm slab released by explosives or ski cuts in the near and above tree line.

Large wind slabs were triggered with explosives above treeline by Meadows pro-patrol Saturday morning on lee slopes. Near treeline, cross loaded gullies were sensitive to skier triggering with 1 ft slabs possible. A breakable crust dominated below treeline Saturday.  

No new reports were received Monday. 

Detailed Forecast for Tuesday:

Another warm and sunny day with light winds is expected again Tuesday. Temperatures pushed into the upper 50's Monday afternoon and it may be a few degrees cooler Tuesday. The avalanche danger will again focus on loose wet avalanches. Steeper solar slopes should be the most likely places for natural or skier triggered loose wet avalanches. Solar slopes involve more than just due south aspects as we head further into February.  

Be aware of loose wet avalanche potential above terrain traps (like above cliffs or near gullies), where even small wet avalanches can become powerful and have unintended consequences.  

Lingering wind slab on lee slopes near and above treeline should be stubborn to trigger, but still may be possible in isolated locations on Tuesday. 

Watch for recent cornices along ridges which may become sensitive to trigger or release naturally during the warm weather.

If pushing higher on the volcanoe Tuesday, the loose wet potential extends well above the top NWAC elevation band with larger avalanches possible.  


Area Weather Data