February 24, 2024
Avalanche danger remains high in Juneau as slide dusts downtown neighborhood

A snow cloud over the Behrends neighborhood during an avalanche on Tuesday, Jan. 16, 2024 (Photo courtesy of Jennifer Whitcomb)

After more than 30 inches of snow fell over the holiday weekend, avalanche activity in Juneau is high. A Monday evening avalanche has blocked Thane Road, and a Tuesday morning avalanche dusted homes in the Behrends neighborhood. But no damage has been reported.

Emily Osborn was in her house on Glacier Highway when the Behrends slide came down.

“I think it was more dramatic since it was so sunny and a bluebird day outside,” she said. “All of the sudden, the lighting in my living room just kind of changed — it all the sudden went from bright sunshine to more of a dark golden color. And I looked out the window, and all I could see was snow.”

Osborn, who has lived in the house since 2019, said this is the first time she’s witnessed an avalanche come down. 

“It probably lasted for about 30 seconds. And it was just like a blizzard outside,” she said. 

The Behrends Path above Glacier Highway, where a small snow slide came down on Tuesday, Jan. 16, 2024 (Clarise Larson/KTOO)

The storm gave way to clear skies and cold temperatures Tuesday that are expected to persist until the weekend.

Juneau’s emergency programs manager Tom Mattice said it will take a few days for the weekend’s snow to bond with the existing snowpack. In the meantime, strong winds over the ridges could trigger more avalanches. 

“The area that slid on Behrends this morning was a very small piece of a much bigger avalanche path,” Mattice said. “So there is still danger up there. But I don’t believe that the depth [of snow] is enough to hit houses.”

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It’s possible the neighborhood will get dusted again. Mattice said those smaller snow slides reduce the overall avalanche danger.

“The bottom line is the more snow there is, the farther it travels and the more destructive power it has,” Mattice said. “So it’s good to see some of that snow come off the hill, it reduces some of the concern.”

There was little visible evidence on Behrends Avenue of Tuesday morning’s avalanche, which came down after 30 inches of snow over the holiday weekend buried Juneau and pushed the urban avalanche advisory to “high.” (Clarise Larson/KTOO)

Juneau’s urban avalanche advisory was “high” as of Tuesday morning. The “extreme” level is typically reserved for scenarios that could damage houses. 

But Mattice said avalanche country should be avoided, especially the Flume Trail and the entirety of Gold Creek Basin and Perseverance Basin. 

And Thane Road reopened Tuesday afternoon after two natural avalanches on Monday evening brought down trees and at least two feet of snow that blocked the road. The Alaska Department of Transportation cautions drivers not to stop while passing through the avalanche zone.

This post has been updated to reflect that Thane Road has reopened.