Avalanche safety and protection program to increase the safety on BC Hwys.

AVALANCHE CONTROL KEEPS HIGHWAYS SAFE

VICTORIA –January through March is a time of increased avalanche activity across British Columbia. The Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure provides a Province-wide avalanche safety and protection program to increase the safety of those who travel on our highways.

Motorists should watch for “AVALANCHE AREA – DO NOT STOP” signs, as this will alert them that they are driving within a designated avalanche area. All exit points of avalanche areas are identified with an “END AVALANCHE AREA” sign.

When avalanches are likely to threaten highway locations, there may be temporary road closures while ministry avalanche technicians conduct explosive control missions to stabilize slopes. Most closures last two to four hours. Longer closures may be needed during extended storm periods but in many cases detours are possible. Motorists heading up mountain passes should check www.drivebc.ca for road conditions and possible closure and alternate route information.

The ministry’s avalanche program manages more than 60 avalanche areas that include over 1,300 individual paths. The ministry employs a crew of highly trained avalanche professionals who monitor weather and snowpack conditions continuously during the avalanche season. Every precaution is taken to ensure safety from avalanches for motorists on the highway.

Avalanche technicians gather current weather information from both road level and high elevation electronic weather stations and have access to snow and avalanche occurrence information throughout the province. This information, combined with extensive local knowledge, ensures that highways are closed when they need to be and open when they are safe.

Most avalanche related road closures can be anticipated and announced on the DriveBC web site but unexpected changes in weather and snowpack conditions may prompt a closure. The length of a closure is subject to the severity of conditions; however, extended closures are infrequent.

Below are some tips for motorists when driving through high mountain passes:

*    Observe “Avalanche Area – Do Not Stop” signs

*    Be alert to the potential for avalanches while driving through avalanche areas.

*    If you encounter an avalanche across the highway, stay in your vehicle, keep your seat belt on and do not try to drive through the avalanche. If there is cell coverage, call 911 to report the situation. If possible, back up to a safe area (beyond the avalanche area sign).

*    Obey traffic control personnel. Traffic is stopped when avalanche control work with explosives is taking place.

For more information on the ministry’s avalanche program, visit http://www.th.gov.bc.ca/mot_org/const_maint/avalanche_weather/index.htm. Information relating to the back country is available at www.avalanche.ca.