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Olympics

Issued: 6:03 PM PST Tuesday, January 22, 2019
by Robert Hahn

Avalanche danger is likely to peak overnight, but avalanche danger created due to recent wind and snow and rain will linger and gradually decrease through the day. Be patient and give very recently formed slabs time to settle. If you head out, please be aware that our snowpack information is very limited at this time.

Danger Scalei
  • No Rating (Info Avail)
  • Low (1)
  • Moderate (2)
  • Considerable (3)
  • High (4)
  • Extreme (5)

Snow and Avalanche Discussion

Temperatures and winds were increasing on Tuesday, but moisture arrived more slowly than anticipated. However, the storm isn’t over and strong winds and light to moderate precipitation are still forecast for Hurricane Ridge. Snow levels are expected to peak around 6500 ft later Tuesday night and this high snow level should confine to the uppermost elevations at Hurricane Ridge on Wednesday.

Our received our first observation in over a month from the Olympic mountains illustrated multiple strong crust layers extending to near the surface and wind-drifted surface snow near treeline, with little to no snow below 4000 ft. We will not try to extrapolate this observation to other parts of the range as snowpacks may differ widely.

Right now we are forecasting without specific snowpack and avalanche observations from the Hurricane Ridge area due to the government shutdown. If you travel to the Olympic Mountains, please help your local forecast by submitting an observation. We haven’t received updated snowpack information for one month.

January 20, 2019

The recent weather pattern of lower accumulation storms (by NW standards) and longer stretches of calm weather should continue as we move into late January. Since January 17th, incremental snow accumulations punctuated with rising freezing levels favored the south and eastern parts of the region. Storm instabilities have risen with storms and gradually subsided.

A storm slab at Mt Baker.

New Snow Problems

Storms over the past week have brought a range of layers from rain crusts, to heavy moist snow, to stiff drifts, to light dry powder. Some storm days, like the 18-19th, saw reactive, but very short-lived avalanches caused by heavy precipitation and wind. Even the longer-lasting avalanche problems, wind slabs, haven't persisted for more than a few days. Where the recent snow is stressing underlying weak layers, more dangerous avalanche conditions have prevailed.

Surface hoar in the East Central zone

Old Snow Problems

Persistent weak layers (PWLs) have been a constant in the eastern zones of the Cascades this winter. As usual, they have been much less problematic at the Passes and west of the Cascade Crest. The latest PWL is a layer of surface hoar, buried around January 17th and found generally east of the Cascade Crest. Buried surface hoar is an active weak layer in the eastern zones and can be found to a limited extent on the eastern edge of the Stevens and Snoqualmie Pass zones. There few, if any, avalanches have been reported on the buried surface hoar. It may be most problematic in open, wind-sheltered terrain, especially well above the valley floor.

You are most likely to find other layers of old weak snow the further you move east from the Cascade crest. Here snowpacks are shallower, more variable, and generally weaker. In some locations, weak snow near the ground can still be found. These basal facets have hung around all season. Digging profiles and using snowpack tests is the best way to gain information about these old persistent weak layers. However, snowpack tests are just one piece of the puzzle. Your terrain decisions shouldn't hinge on any given test result. Because of the size of our forecast zones and the variability in the snowpack, it's important to make snow observations as you travel. We’ll keep watching these old layers, but let us know what you see while you are in the mountains.

No Corresponding Mountain Weather Forecast Available