BACKPACKER ALERT: Tracking Evolution of High Sierra Hazard Status through Fall 2017


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By Alex Wierbinski - Posted on 11 September 2017

 

BACKPACKER ALERT

High Sierra Status and Hazards 

Updated
November 17

Tracking the changing nature of hazards and potential hazards the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range is currently experiencing, to the best of my abilities. Beyond these observations we link to relevant sources of information for Fire, Smoke, Weather, Flood, & Lightening Hazards.

 

  NOTE 
The Sierra Calendar draws together
an extensive array of snow, runoff, weather, hazard, and temp information.

 

 

 

Latest High Sierra Trail News

Latest Mountain Safety News & Topics

Standard High Sierra Hazards

 

National Hazard Map and Regional Hazard Reports

All High Sierra Forecasts

Park & Forest Fires, Fire Restrictions, Alerts, & Advisories

 

 

 HAZARD STATUS

November 17

Weekend Looking Clear!
Snow Terrain & early Winter Temp Warnings in Effect 

Clear Skies will bring a temp drop:
COLD
Nights

High Sierra Weather: Fall Storm Situation Report, November 17, 2017

November 15

November 13

Waves of Precip expected through Thurs, returning over Weekend.

Winter Storm Warnings

All Sierra Forecast Zones

All Forecasts

All Snow Reporting

 

 

 

November 10 

Hazard Alert

2017
Light Precip, Showers, Cooling

A significant cold-air transport mechanicsm has configured itself along the North-Eastern Quadrant/Shore of the Pacific, chaining up cold air flows propelled by a massive High moving SE across the Gulf Alaska with counter-clockwise flows of a couple of Lows just along & above the Norhtwestern-most Coast of the US.

This configuration has set up a "wave" of cold air, a weak front from the North that is today displacing warmer tropical flows from the South, noticably cooling things down. Well, it's starting to cool things down... that's a real backcountry risk right now.

This link brings you to the current N Pac Weather Map of the date you click it.

The Null School EARTH, Wind set at 500 hPa, shows this cold air's path from the North.

The Northernmost of the two Lows currently sitting stacked-up along the continental coast near & North of Vancover will bring another, colder Front Southeast, but the question is how far South?

During the next three days we will see if a blocking ridge deflects the center of this cold, stormy Low North, around the Sierra.

Either way, we gonna get hit, but it looks like the strongest bits will be passing around to the North of the Sierra.

Snowline at 7000 overnight(s), looking like cold rains sweeping Sierra Crest today.

These are dangerous condition, being cold, windy & wet. I refer you to this 2016 Alert describing the dangers:

 

Hazard Alert

 

 

NEW
Snowfall Probability Map

Old
Snowfall Probability Page

 

 

All Current Conditions

MesoWest

 

Reporting
by
Watershed

 

 

 

November 7

2017
Clear,
Crisp, & Cool

Stormy Weather Coming

A Huge Low is sitting up in Gulf Alaska, dragging a vast plume of tropical moisture Northeast. 

That's the persistant location of the High-Low formation that set up, "The Blob," from 2013-15.

More Blob

That Low's predicted trajectory to the Southeast should drag some snow across the Sierra by late Wednesday or early Thursday. 

Rain Probs

Snow Probs

 

All Snow Info

 

All Precip Info

 

Also See
What Brings the Winter of 2018?

 

 

 

November 3

BACKPACKER ALERT

 

Moderate/weak-strength storm bringing up to 2 feet of snow to the Sierra Crest
over this upcoming weekend. 

Winter Gear required.

Woo-Hooo!

Winter Storm Watch In Effect Above 7,000 Feet,
Sierra News Online, November 2, 2017.


NWS Watch, Warning, Advisory Display,
with links to local NWS Office Hazard Warnings.

 

Weather Tools

All Rain-Snow-Precip Tools

All Radar

All High Sierra Forecast Zones

Graphical Interface Forecast Display

 

Everything
The High Sierra Outdoors-folks Weather Page

 

Let's
Gear-Up for Winter

 On September 15 the temps and conditions shifted enough to require shifting our gear setup from Summer to Fall gear kits.

FALL GEAR CHANGE UPON US,
Sept 15, 2017.

Now we've hit the Winter Line, and we've got to deploy the necessary elements of our Winter Gear Kit. Not the whole thing, but some serious Winter gear needs to come out now.

 

Four-Season High Sierra Gear List     

This storm should finally end the Fire Season, too...

 

 

 

October 31

Halloween

THE 2017 QUESTION
When is the First Real Storm going to hit the Sierra Nevada?

When will two feet fall?

First N Sierra Rains predicted 
6pm Thursday running through 6pm Monday

Run the Animation

All Rain & Snow Tools

 

All Forecasts

 

Article
California’s first big winter snow storm headed for Sierra Nevada,
Mercury News, October 31, 2017.

 

 

 

October 17

TRAVEL-TEMP-STORM HAZARDS
First "Sizable" Snow Storm?

 

No, but biggest so far. Rain & Snow Forecast Thurs Night through Daylight Hours of Friday

 

 

 

October 16

CONTINUING STORY
EXTREME SMOKE HAZARD
NEW FIRE THREAT HIGH 
Massive Napa-Santa Rosa Fire

 

Overnight (9th) 30 mph standing winds, with gusts to 50, blows firestorms into being

 

FIRE & SMOKE PROJECTIONS
BlueSky Daily Runs

CA/NV 2-km 72 hr forecast

UPDATE IT
All BlueSky Daily Runs

Pick Region & Time, Click, "MAP."

 

 

October 10

INCREASED FIRE HAZARD APPROACHES

Tuesday's light breezes picking up to light winds overnight through Wednesday.

Graphical Interface
Winds Picking up Tuesday Night into Wednesday

 

Graphical Interface
US Hazard Map & Local NWS Hazard Reports

 

 

 October 9

FIRE & SMOKE HAZARDS

Massive Napa-Santa Rosa Fire

Overnight 30 mph standing winds, with gusts to 50, blows firestorms into being.

Fire Satellite View: Extent & Number of North Ca Fires

 

Keeping Score

Too many players on the Field, We Need a Map

Google California Statewide Fire Map

 

Observe the Vast Smoke Plume

Most pushed into the Pacific

Sierra Nevada Visible Satellite

 

CalFire
CalFire Incident Information

 

Smoke Information
California Smoke Information

 

Air Quality

Air Now

 

Friday
CAL FIRE NEWS RELEASE

With an almost praeternatural anticipation, CAL FIRE released
this Warning on the Friday before the fires broke out on Sunday:

"The second week in October (8-14) marks Fire Prevention Week and this year’s theme is “Every Second Counts – Plan 2 Ways Out!” Take time now to create an escape plan with your family and practice that plan twice a year. Knowing what to do and where to go can save precious seconds, helping you and your family escape safely without tragedy." 

The Backpacker Level of Readiness

This advice especially applies to backpackers. We should always have a fire plan, a plan that brings us from meadow to meadow and lake to lake away from any potential oncoming fire path. Getting to the safest positon to hunker-down in when the fire comes through is our goal, if we cannot keep ourselves out of its path.

The Backpacker at Home

Reciprocially, as logical, observant backpackers we already have our home escape backpacking gear & our domestic emergency escape plans in place. 

 

 

  

October 5

EVER-PRESENT FALL HAZARD

Unexpected Snow

Sonora Pass & Tioga Passes Closed Tuesday

 

It's a Sierra surprise; Second Closure in 2017 of Sonora Pass

 

 

Potential Hazards

HOT
Days

HEAT WARNING
Through Weekend

 

RISING
to
RECORD-LEVEL HEAT?

with potentially
COLD NIGHTS

 

All High Sierra
ZONE FORECASTS

 

HIGH FIRE DANGER
(Western US Dry)
&
SMOKE THREAT

 

Federal Resources
Parks, Forests, and Lands

Inciweb 

Selected Locations

Inciweb: LTBMU Tahoe Basin

Inciweb: Yosemite

Inciweb: SEKI

 

Smoke
Information

California Smoke Information

 

Air Quality

Air Now

Air NowPM & Ozone maps, & loops

Air Now Cities

Air Now AQI chart

 

 

Top of Hazards

 

 

September 28

Massive Rockfall off El Capitan

Waterfall Route

 

 

 

 

September 23

COLD & SNOW
ALONG THE SIERRA CRESTLINE

See this date's entry in the High Sierra Backpacker's Calendar for a sample
of temps and snowfall along the Sierra Crestline.

 

 

 

September 22

Snow Thru This Evening

Sacramento Advisories
Fire, Frost, Freezing, and Snow advisories at the same time!

 

National Hazard Map and Regional Hazard Reports

 

 

 

September 17

Fire & Smoke Status

Inciweb


ACTIVE FIRES

Empire Fire

Railroad Fire

South Fork Fire

Creek Fire

Slinkard Fire

  

 

All Smoke Information

 

September 17, 2017

High Sierra Status 
FALL CONSIDERATIONS
Lightening, Fire, & Smoke Hazards have all been reduced somewhat by the cooling weather, & we've finally seen a retreat of the tropical weather coming out of the South in favor of our more traditional temperate weather out of the Northwest.

This cooling reduction in tropical heat, its associated lightening, and the fire & smoke they brought may now be ushering in the very best part of this year's hiking season. Though Fall is always an excellent season for careful backpackers, it's is especially true this year, considering how the heavy snow and extended snow coverage on the crest, and dangerous fording conditions took up all the early and most of the middle parts of this year's hiking season.

Yet Fall hiking also has its hazards. We face high wind warnings early this week and potential snow later in the week. These would be typical of Fall Hazards. We counter these with planning and training. Our trip planning and weather analysis must be more astute, incorporating the necessary gear for a wider and colder range of potential weather outcomes than required for Summer backpacking. We also must be fit enough to endure the work and the weather, especially if both factors come together at the same time.

My final consideration is more mental than physical. The question is how well we can navigate the terrain if it's obscured by an unexpected snowstorm, which sometimes happens during early Fall. Could we find our way without obvious signs of trail? Can we push through and navigate across two feet of unexpected snow? These questions become more important as Fall chills into Winter, but should start entering our considerations now.

The Fall Gear Change is Upon Us.

 

Top of Hazards

 

September 15

FALL GEAR CHANGE UPON US

Snow possible next week in higher elevations,
Lake Tahoe News, September 15, 2017.

 

 

 

 

 

September 14

FIRST SNOW

Lake Tahoe sees first snowfall of 2017-18 season,
Sierra Sun, September 14, 2017.

Gear Selection choices must now consider increasing chances for lowering nighttime temps and snow, as well as potential for excessive heat and tropical humidity, with thunderstorms dropping downpours and throwing lightening during daylight hours.

These would be the horns of dillema: Hot Days & Cold Nights.

These decreasing nighttime-daytime temps should terminate the tropical pushes, eventually.

 

Four Season High Sierra Backpacker Gear List 

 

 

 

September 13

WEATHER HAZARD
Tropical Low

Cooler, after downright tropical air/weather for the last two days.

T-Storms

 

LIGHTENING

Lightening Information

Lightening Probs

 

High Sierra Mountain Safety:
LIGHTENING

 

All High Sierra ZONE Forecasts

 

 

Top of Hazards

 

 

September 12

WEATHER HAZARD
Tropical Low

 

T-Storms, Tropical-Style & Humid 

 

Commet

 

 

September 11

WEATHER HAZARD
Tropical Low

Severe T-Storms,
Tropical-Style & Humid

 

LIGHTENING

Lightening Information

Lightening Probs

 

All High Sierra Forecasts

 

 See the
Previous Backpacker Alert Page

 

Top

 

 

Last Formal
Backpacker Alert

DANGEROUS SPRING TRAVEL CONDITIONS
Issued April 1, 2017.

Intense 2017 Snowpack Year
Backpacker Alert:
April 1 - August 22,

That alert lasted until August 22!

The page above tracks evolving High Sierra Hazards since then.

 

 

 

STANDARD
HIGH SIERRA HAZARDS

 

 HEAT WAVES

NWS
High Sierra Weather Hazard
WARNINGS

&
National Hazard Map

 

 

FORDING

Fording Hazards in the High Sierra

 All River Flow and Stage Information

  

 

LIGHTENING

Lightening Information

Lightening Probs

  

 

FIRE & SMOKE
hazards are present & increasing.

CalFire

Inciweb Fed

Smoke

 &

MOSQUITOES are a HUGE THREAT.

Dealing with Skeeters

 Skeeter News & Info

 

 

Other
Mountain Safety Resources

High Sierra Mountain Safety Topics

High Sierra Mountain Safety News

 

 

Top of Hazards

Top

 

 

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