REVELSTOKE –Avalanches and avalanche work on local highways have wreaked havoc on highway travel over the past few days after a storm dumped around a metre of snow in some places, then warmed up rapidly.
Keeping on top of all of the rotating highway openings, closings and advisories is a little like trying to shovel slush uphill.
The following update is provided as of 5 p.m. on Jan. 17. For the remainder of this storm cycle, check the Drive BC website for the latest updates.
Also, all local highway cams can be viewed on our homepage at www.revelstoketimesreview.com.
Drive BC is reporting that Highway 1 will be closed just east of Golden over a 14-kilometre stretch until Wednesday. Highway 1 is also closed between the west boundary of Yoho National Park to West Lake Louise Lodge.
Drive BC is recommending travellers taking trans-provincial trips to use Highway 3.
Highway 23 North is closed from Revelstoke to the Mica Dam due to avalanche danger. The estimated time of opening is 10:30 p.m. on Monday.
Parks Canada provided us with this update as of about 1:30 p.m. on Jan. 17:
Road closures and avalanche control in Glacier National Park
Parks Canada’s decision to close sections of the Trans-Canada Highway, Highway 93 South and the Icefields Parkway was made with traveller and worker safety as our primary concern and was necessary to protect motorists from avalanche hazards and to allow for avalanche control work.
We have experienced exceptional weather and there have been very dangerous avalanche conditions over the last 72 hours. This has been considered a thirty-year weather event, the “perfect storm” for big avalanches. The main storm is expected to be over and we are now in clean-up mode. Avalanche control in Glacier National Park concluded at 3 a.m. this morning and we are currently doing clean up and preparing the Trans-Canada Highway in Glacier National Park for opening. Opening the highway will be coordinated with the BC Ministry of Transportation (MOT) who are undergoing their own avalanche control efforts for the section of the highway from Revelstoke to the Glacier West boundary. The highway is expected to open later today (January 17). For current up-to-date information, the MOT media-update web page is up and can be linked on www.drivebc.ca. Avalanche areas that threaten the Kicking Horse Canyon have not been controlled yet due to extreme conditions. Current estimate for opening the Kicking Horse Canyon is late Tuesday. For more information please refer to www.drivebc.ca.
We recognize the inconvenience of the highway closure for motorists, but our first priority is and was motorist and worker safety. Parks Canada employs highly trained professionals who work 24-7 doing avalanche control and road maintenance. Our goal is to re-open the roads in a timely and safe manner and we thank everyone for their patience.
The B.C. Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure provided the following bulletin as of the morning of Jan. 17:
Severe weather affects travel on B.C. highways
VICTORIA – Extreme avalanche conditions, blowing snow and freezing rain are hampering highway travel in many parts of British Columbia. Anyone planning a highway trip is advised to “know before you go” by checking the DriveBC website at drivebc.ca for the latest road reports.
In the Kootenay region, the Kicking Horse Canyon is experiencing a once- in-30-years avalanche cycle, with over a metre of heavy snow falling on top of a weaker layer of snow. This, combined with unseasonably warm temperatures and strong alpine winds, is making the snow pack throughout the Kootenays extremely unstable. As a result, more than 30 large avalanches have occurred along Highway 1 in the Kicking Horse Canyon, east of Golden.
Highway 1 is expected to remain closed until Wednesday in order for avalanche technicians to release the snow pack and clear the roads. This same storm cycle is having a similar affect on Highway 93 South in Kootenay National Park. This route is also closed and is expected to remain closed overnight.
The Ministry has ten avalanche experts working around the clock along with technicians from Parks Canada. These technicians are highly specialized and skilled in avalanche control activities with over 150 years of combined field experience, and are all registered with the Canadian Avalanche Association.
Today’s poor visibility grounded helicopters and prevented avalanche work from occurring. Tomorrow’s forecast is for better flying conditions and it is hopeful crews will be able to resume avalanche activities at first light. Once senior avalanche technicians determine that the avalanche paths are safe, highway maintenance crews will immediately begin the process of clearing the roadway, and crews and equipment are standing by.
Additionally, late Sunday afternoon, Highway 97 between Prince George and Chetwynd experienced its first significant avalanche to reach the highway in over ten years. This portion of the highway remains closed overnight until avalanche technicians can access the area at first light to assess the snowpack.