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Storm brings blustery winds, increased avalanche risk

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Courtesy of National Weather Service Anchorage
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Homer and Turnagain Pass will bear the brunt of wintry weather tonight and tomorrow. 

But Kenai, too, will continue to see blowing snow as the storm rolls through.

Matthew Fazal is a forecaster with the National Weather Service in Anchorage. He said the weather comes from a system from Bristol Bay — which already brought storms and power outages to the Alaska Peninsula.

Now, it’s making its way toward the western Gulf of Alaska. A front is pushing north toward the Kenai Peninsula.

“As the front progresses, we have gusty north winds that will bring blowing snow conditions for one to three hours later this evening," he said.

Kenai is expected to get snow accumulation of less than two inches Thursday and Thursday night. Homer can expect heavy wet snowfall as temperatures climb just above freezing, particularly over the Homer bluff.

Turnagain Pass is expected to get six to nine inches this afternoon and an additional four to seven tonight, Fazal said. Portage Valley will also see heavy snowfall.

It will make for some good powder on much of the peninsula this weekend.

But recreationists should be warned: Avalanche danger in Turnagain Pass will be high.

“Just keep it mellow. That’s the best advice I can give," said Sean Sullivan. He lives in Nikiski and teaches avalanche courses to snowmachiners through the Alaska Avalanche School.

Sullivan said recreationists should wait out the storms and be careful when they do get out.  Wind gusts will transport large amounts of snow and create wind slabs. 

“They’re going to be really obvious," he said. "But it’s also going to create some really excellent powder conditions in mild terrain.”

He said he won’t be heading out himself on his snowmachine this weekend. But if he were, he’d stick to more gradual terrain.

As for folks driving through the pass, Shannon McCarthy with the Alaska Department of Transportation says the Silvertip Maintenance Station is up and running, and operators are ready to tackle the storm. 

Silvertip covers a 60-mile stretch of the Seward Highway, including Turnagain Pass. The station was closed for about a year after the state wrote it out of its budget. It was brought online last winter following public pressure from commuters and recreationists.

Homer Electric Association spokesperson KeriAnn Baker said Thursday afternoon that the cooperative is on standby in case of potential outages.

Power was already out in Cooper Landing Thursday afternoon. That outage, in the Chugach Electric Association service area, impacts more than 450 Chugach Electric members.

Chugach spokesperson Julie Hasquet said residents reported a tree on a main line and wire on the ground near Wildman's. The area was experiencing high winds and snow Thursday.

Chugach Electric crews were onsite by Thursday evening. Cooper Landing residents say they've been experiencing an uptick in power outages this fall.

Sabine Poux is the news director at KDLL. Originally from New York, she's lived and reported in Argentina and Vermont, where she fell in love with local news. She covers all things central peninsula but is especially interested in stories related to energy and fishing. She'd love to hear your ideas at spoux@kdll.org.
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