In addition to new technology, Parks Canada’s partnership with the Canadian Armed Forces continues to be an integral part of avalanche control in Glacier National Park. (Parks Canada)

World’s most extensive avalanche detection system launched on Rogers Pass

The project stems from $95 million in funding to improve Highway 1 through Glacier National Park

As a winter storm hits Revelstoke, the world’s most extensive avalanche detection system works away.

Installation of the $3 million project was finished this year on Rogers Pass, east of Revelstoke.

The new avalanche detection network uses Doppler radar and infra sound to monitor sound and electromagnetic waves produced by avalanches. The technology is particular useful in low visibility conditions.

Gunner Levi Stoltzfus from 10th Field Artillery Regiment, applies a bearing on the sight of a 105-mm C3 Howitzer gun on Rogers Pass on 21 Nov. 21, 2019. Photo: MCpl PJ Létourneau, Canadian Forces Combat Camera

“It’s hard to see what’s happening when it’s dark and stormy on the mountains,” said Shelley Bird, Parks Canada spokesperson.

The system includes 13 infra sound panels and three radar detectors. Parks Canada avalanche officers will even receive text messages informing them that avalanche activity is occurring.

The project stems out of $95 million in federal funding that is being spent to improve vehicle congestion on Highway 1 through Glacier National Park, over the last five years. Other improvements includes lengthening of passing lanes, LED lighting on snow sheds, extending vehicle holding areas during highway closures, installing snow nets and restoring wetland habitat impacted by Highway 1.

READ MORE: PHOTOS: Highway 1 improvements restoring fish habitat in Glacier National Park

READ MORE: Feds fund Avalanche Detection Network in Glacier National Park

Parks Canada said the new detection system should reduce wait times on Highway 1 due to avalanche control.

Last winter, Highway 1 over Rogers Pass was closed for more than 100 hours, which is 30 hours more than the year prior. Parks Canada aims for two hour closures for avalanche control, with some lasting up to eight with periods of high avalanche activity.

Bird said closure hours vary from year to year depending on the amount of snowfall, avalanche conditions and traffic volume. When traffic is heavy, travellers are stopped in Revelstoke and Golden for safety reasons, which results in longer closure times.

Over the long-term, Bird said, average closure times have decreased by 11 per cent.

According to Parks Canada the last time the road was closed for longer than 24 hours was ten years ago. According to the B.C. government, Highway 1 closures can cost $500,000 per hour.

Rogers Pass has one of the world’s most complex system of snownets at over two km worth. (Parks Canada)

Annual snow fall in the Selkirk mountains averages more than 12 metres. In Rogers Pass, there are 134 avalanche paths along a 40 km section. The Canadian Armed Forces uses artillery for avalanche control along Highway 1.

*story updated with long-term closure data from Parks Canada


 

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