Feb. 9—A major weather system moving over Southcentral Alaska is expected to bump Anchorage temperatures above freezing for the first time in weeks, bringing with it a chance of rain-snow mix starting Friday night.
The break in the frigid cold of the past few weeks comes in a record winter for Anchorage so far, with the weight of a seasonal snowfall total of more than 9 feet triggering numerous roof collapses.
By Friday morning, the latest storm had dumped at least a foot of snow on Turnagain Pass, with wind gusts overnight into Friday reported up to 90 mph, prompting the Chugach National Forest Avalanche Information Center to issue avalanche warnings, including for roofs in areas getting heavy snow.
Forecasters said temperatures could rise above freezing in the city for the first time since mid-January.
The storm system was expected to impact a swath from Kodiak Island through Southcentral until Saturday night, according to the National Weather Service.
Anchorage is "on the fringe" of the heaviest weather, with moderate to heavy precipitation and strong winds expected to hit the eastern Kenai Peninsula and western Prince William Sound, said meteorologist Michael Kutz.
The city could see a mix of rain and snow overnight into Saturday, with temperatures warming above freezing during the day Saturday, Kutz said.
That brings the risk of slick roads and sidewalks in cleared areas, he said, but it's unlikely enough rain will fall to add significant weight to roofs even with 33 inches of snow still on the ground at Sand Lake.
"It's not going to be like a deluge or anything like that, that will really make the snow wet," Kutz said Friday morning.
Temperatures were expected to rise above freezing for most of the region on Saturday before dropping again by midweek.
Avalanche forecasters on Friday morning issued a warning of high avalanche danger at all levels in Turnagain Pass due to the storm and more heavy snow expected through Friday. The Chugach National Forest Avalanche Information Center recommended avoiding all avalanche terrain and runout zones of avalanche paths.
"Widespread buried weak layers could cause unusually large avalanches in low elevation terrain and catch folks off guard in areas that are typically safe," the center warned.
Roof avalanches are also likely as the temperatures increase and precipitation continues, the center said. "Be aware of where you park, enter buildings, and where kids or dogs are wandering."
Several avalanches were reported last week and weekend including a small slide that led to the death of a German man on a heli-ski trip in the Chugach Mountains. The Chugach National Forest center reported two other incidents in the Turnagain Pass area.
That includes one avalanche kicked off during a snowboarder's descent of a route on Tincan Ridge on Feb. 2, a harrowing run captured on video by his helmet camera.
The snowboarder is mostly silent all the way down as he's carried by the torrent of powder that breaks loose as he drops onto what the center described as a wind-loaded slope.
The video, captured on the snowboarder's GoPro, shows him riding out of the slide past a small group of skiers who watched the avalanche unfold.
The snowboarder was carried roughly 800 feet but was not hurt and was able to ride away, the center said.