Avalanche Forecast for Friday, February 22, 2019

This forecast was published 02/22/2019 at 7:16 AM.
A new forecast will be issued tomorrow.

The Mount Washington Avalanche Center will no longer issue daily avalanche forecasts for the 2018/19 season. Read more

The Mount Washington Avalanche Center will no longer issue daily avalanche forecasts for the 2018/19 season. Instead, we will post an updated General Bulletin as needed, in case of significant snow or weather events that might vary from the typical daily changes that come with spring weather. We will also keep you informed about the official closure of the portion of the Tuckerman Ravine Trail from Lunch Rocks through the Lip and Headwall as well as the switch from the Lion Head Winter Route to the summer trail. Observations from the field will continue to be a valuable resource, so please keep submitting photos, videos and observations here and we will do the same. Check the Forecast page for update on Sherburne Trail closures, which are imminent as spring snowmelt continues.

The switch to a General Bulletin does NOT mean that the mountains are now a safe place to ski. The hazards which emerge in the spring are significant and require careful assessment and strategic management. If you have never skied Tuckerman, peruse our Incidents and Accidents page for spring related incidents involving avalanches, long sliding falls, icefall, crevasse and moat falls, and other incidents related to diurnal changes in the snowpack. These will help you understand and plan for these hazards.


The Bottom Line

Recent new snowfall and high winds have created wind slabs in predominantly east facing terrain. Wind slabs that formed in high winds late last night will be firm and large in some areas but likely to be stubborn to a human trigger. That said, around half of the total 4-5” of snow fell after peak wind speeds which occurred late last night. This wind deposited snow is likely to be reactive to triggering. An avalanche triggered in that snow could step down into the more stubborn wind slabs. Due to the potential to trigger these wind slabs, along with the lingering possibility of a natural avalanche, you’ll find CONSIDERABLE avalanche hazard where you find this wind deposited snow. On higher south facing terrain, like the northern gullies in Huntington Ravine, which are rated MODERATE, you’ll find less snow due to the scouring action of the high winds and reduced avalanche danger as a result.  

2019-2-22 Printable

Danger Rating by Zone

Mountain Weather

In the past day and a half, the summit recorded 5” of new snow with 4” at Hermit Lake and Gray Knob including periods of graupel observed. During this snowfall, moderate (35-50mph) S and SW wind increased in velocity while shifting west (55-75 mph) then WNW and ramping up further (70-85mph) late last night. Peak hourly gusts from the WNW last night reached 110 and 111 mph for several hours before midnight. Wind is currently moderating and is forecast to remain in the 45-60 mph range on the summit. Wind is currently at the lower end of that range. Temperatures yesterday were in the 20’s at mid-elevations and just above freezing at lower elevations. Summit temperature will be steady at 10F with no new snow in the forecast until Saturday night and Sunday. Skies should clear today with summit fog breaking up through the day.

Primary Avalanche Problem – Wind Slab

Wind Slab

Aspect/Elevation

Likelihood

Size

Wind speeds like those last night typically strip snow from our fetch and upper start zones, depositing it into lower start zones. As a result, areas like the terrain beneath the ice in the Headwall of Tuckerman Ravine and mid-gully in the Gulf of Slides are likely to hold large wind slabs. Bear in mind that even in firm, finger to pencil hardness snow, you can still trigger an avalanche at a thin or weak spot in the slab, in an area perforated by bushes and rocks, or on a convexity. Probe around with your pole handle or ice axe on the firm snow. You will likely feel less resistance which indicates weaker, softer snow beneath.

What is a Windslab Avalanche?

  Wind Slab avalanches are the release of a cohesive layer of snow (a slab) formed by the wind. Wind typically transports snow from the upwind sides of terrain features and deposits snow on the downwind side. Wind slabs are often smooth and rounded and sometimes sound hollow, and can range from soft to hard. Wind slabs that form over a persistent weak layer (surface hoar, depth hoar, or near-surface facets) may be termed Persistent Slabs or may develop into Persistent Slabs.

Snowpack and Avalanche Discussion

Relatively warm temperatures yesterday were conducive to settlement of older wind slabs that still contained unsintered, unrounded grains above the Feb 8th ice crust. Sharp particles were observed Wednesday in the layers of wind slab just above the ice crust in the human-triggered avalanche that occurred in the Lower Snowfields on Tuesday. As mentioned a number of times in the past month, we have a very well developed snowpack, particularly in the eastern half of the range which has seen enhanced upslope snowfall during nor’easters, with associated avalanche activity. Slopes and gullies are large and connected, with the smooth February 8th ice crust present in the snowpack throughout our terrain. The ice crust serves as a slippery and smooth bed surface and is challenging if not impossible to arrest a fall on where it is exposed. The 4-5” of snow that fell in the past 36 hours or so is likely to have created wind slabs two to four feet thick and even thicker in places across mid slope start zones low in Chute and the Headwall. Slabs have been triggered from well beneath these start zones in the past so be sure to be mindful of terrain factors while assessing the snowpack, travel one at a time across suspect areas, and keep your guard up until further settlement and bonding occurs.

Avalanche Safety Information Study

Please contribute to the effort to improve backcountry avalanche forecasts! Researchers in Canada devised a study to better understand how we communicate the avalanche risk, and we need your help. Please fill out this survey. It will take a few minutes, but it will help us as we work on new ways to give you the most important avalanche information.

Snow Plot Information

DateHN24HN24W
(SWE)
Density (%)HSTTotalAir TT MaxT MinSkyPrecipComments
05/20/19
05:30
0 CM 20.4 MM0CM68 CM11.0 C12.0 C3.5 CObscuredNo precipitation
05/19/19
05:25
0 CM 0.0 MM0CM72 CM4.0 C6.0 C2.0 COvercastNo precipitation
05/18/19
05:20
0 CM 7.6 MM0CM80 CM1.0 C6.0 C1.0 COvercastNo precipitation
05/17/19
05:25
0 CM 0.8 MM0CM84 CM4.0 C10.0 C0.0 CClearNo precipitation
05/16/19
05:20
0 CM 0.0 MM0CM84 CM1.0 C1.5 C0.0 CFewNo precipitation

Avalanche Log and Summit Weather

Daily Observations


Thank you Mount Washington Observatory for providing daily weather data from the summit of Mount Washington.

DateMax TempMin TempTotal (SWE)24H Snow & IceWind AvgWind Fastest MileFastest Mile DirAvalanche Activity
05/18/1934 F26 F 0.06 in 0.5 in39 MPH74 MPH

300 (WNW)

05/17/1940 F28 F .22 in .05 in37 MPH81 MPH

300 (WNW)

05/16/1932 F25 F .03 in 04 in22.8 MPH40 MPH

310 (NW)

05/15/1926 F20 F .05 in .4 in32.1 MPH67 MPH

330 (NNW)

05/14/1928 F17 F .2 in 2 in19.1 MPH57 MPH

100 (E)

05/13/1928 F19 F .07 in 0.9 in34.6 MPH67 MPH

100 (E)

05/12/1931 F17 F 0 in 0 in20.5 MPH47 MPH

330 (NNW)

05/11/1932 F18 F .1 in 0 in53.6 MPH84 MPH

300 (WNW)

05/10/1944 F27 F .85 in 0 in50.1 MPH88 MPH

220 (SW)

05/09/1942 F20 F .04 in 0 in18.6 MPH44 MPH

190 (S)

05/08/1927 F18 F 0 in 0 in38.3 MPH65 MPH

330 (NNW)

05/07/1939 F26 F .54 in 0 in40 MPH66 MPH

270 (W)

Please Remember:

Safe travel in avalanche terrain requires training and experience. This forecast is just one tool to help you make your own decisions in avalanche terrain. You control your own risk by choosing where, when, and how you travel.

Avalanche danger may change when actual weather differs from the higher summits forecast.

For more information contact the US Forest Service Snow Rangers, AMC visitor services staff at the Pinkham Notch Visitor Center, or the caretakers at Hermit Lake Shelters or seasonally at the Harvard Cabin (generally December 1 through March 31). The Mount Washington Ski Patrol is also available on spring weekends.

Posted 02/22/2019 at 7:16 AM.

Frank Carus
USDA Forest Service
White Mountain National Forest