Forecast for the Provo Area Mountains
Issued by Greg Gagne for Monday, January 21, 2019 - 7:40am
It is a day of INCREASING avalanche hazard, with the danger rising to HIGH on all aspects at the upper elevations, and at least CONSIDERABLE at the mid elevations, as well as low elevations fcing northwest through east. Pretty simple avalanche formula as forecasted moderate to strong northwest winds and heavy snowfall will create sensitive storm snow and wind drifts. Both human-triggered and natural avalanches are likely, especially during any period of high precipitation intensity. The hazard is MODERATE at low elevations facing west, through south and southeast. Be sure to avoid avalanche runout zones as avalanches may begin several thousand feet above you.
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AN AVALANCHE WARNING CONTINUES FOR THE MOUNTAINS OF NORTHERN UTAH, where strong winds and heavy snowfall will push to avalanche hazard to HIGH. Both human triggered and natural avalanches are likely. Avoid being on and underneath slopes steeper than 30 degrees.
On Friday, a skier was killed in an avalanche near Electric Lake on the Manti/Skyline Plateau. Their body was recovered Saturday morning. You can read the updated report - including photos and video from the accident site - by clicking here. The UAC extends our deepest condolences to their family and friends.
Weather and Snow
Mountain temperatures are in the 20’s F and south/southwest winds are moderate to strong, gusting in the 30’s and 40’s mph at mid elevations, and 50’s mph at upper elevations.
A strong cold front is forecasted to enter the Wasatch this morning, with temperatures dropping throughout the day. Winds will switch to the northwest this morning, and persist through much of the day, gusting in the 30’s and 40’s mph at mid and upper elevations.
A cold, moist storm is on our doorstep, with snowfall expected to begin this morning, lasting through most of the daylight hours. We should routinely see snowfall rates of 1”/hr, with even higher rates during periods of heavy snowfall from mid-morning through early afternoon. A brief break is possible late afternoon, with snow showers picking up again this evening. Expected snowfall totals by Tuesday morning are 8-14" for the Provo area mountains, with higher totals possible in areas favored by northwest flow.
No backcountry avalanches were reported from Sunday. However control work at a Cottonwood resort in the Salt Lake mountains pulled out a large avalanche that broke 6' deep on a northeast slope at 10,500'.
Avalanche Problem #1
Forecasted heavy snowfall will create sensitive storm snow today. Human-triggered avalanches are likely, and I am also expecting natural avalanches, especially during any period of high precipitation intensity. Pay attention to rapidly changing conditions, and watch for clues such as cracking or avalanching, even on smaller slopes.
Avalanche Problem #2
Wind Drifted Snow
Strong winds out of the south/southwest created some dense wind drifts at the upper elevations on Sunday, and today's northwest winds will have plenty of new, low-density snow to work with, creating fresh wind drifts on all aspects at the mid and upper elevations. Some of these drifts may be 2' thick in places. Also watch for sensitive cornices along upper elevation ridgelines, especially on aspects facing north through east.
Avalanche Problem #3
Persistent Weak Layer
While the faceted weak layers in our snowpack continue to gain strength and adjust to the recent loading of storm and wind-driven snow, they still cannot be completed trusted. I dug several pits over this past weekend in the Salt Lake area mountains, especially in areas that had what we considered a thin snowpack (< 3') prior to last week's storm. My stability tests were showing these weak layers to be gaining strength, but Drew and Don Carpenter still found pre-Christmas facets reactive in their field work on Sunday (observation). With so many avalanches occurring this past Thursday, it is possible so slopes have repeated (some are habitual offenders from all season long), exposing a thinner snowpack that may be reactive to today's new load of storm and wind-driven snow.
This information does not apply to developed ski areas or highways where avalanche control is normally done. This forecast is from the U.S.D.A. Forest Service, which is solely responsible for its content. This forecast describes general avalanche conditions and local variations always occur.