Innovative tech reduces avalanche risk on Highway 37A

Innovative tech reduces avalanche risk on Highway 37A

People travelling through Bear Pass have experienced enhanced safety and fewer avalanche-related road closures since the start of the 2019-20 avalanche season, thanks to the new automated avalanche detection system.

Bear Pass is an avalanche-susceptible stretch of Highway 37A between Stewart and Meziadin Junction.

“British Columbia has one of the world’s most-challenging avalanche management areas, and we have highly trained professionals who manage avalanche risk with timely preventative closures and targeted avalanche control,” said Claire Trevena, Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure. “We use innovative technology wherever possible to support their work, helping to keep people safe and to shorten the time provincial roadways are closed due to avalanches.”

Over the last 35 years, the average of preventative and unscheduled road closures along Bear Pass was approximately 88 hours per year. Since the automated avalanche detection system started operation in November 2019, the avalanche team has been able to reduce avalanche-related road closures by over 40%.

“I have personal experience on how deadly avalanches can be in this area,” said Doug Donaldson, MLA for Stikine and Minister of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development. “This technology helps manage avalanche risk in the Bear Pass, improving safety and access for workers, Stewart community members and visitors. This is good news for residents and rural economic development.”

The high-tech system gathers data about moving snow and ice masses, sending real-time avalanche notifications, data and imagery to B.C.’s avalanche professionals through their cellphones. This quick-moving technology helps them monitor avalanche activity day or night and in any weather condition, supporting their work managing avalanche risk.

“As B.C. begins to emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic, the efficient movement of goods remains a vital priority for rebuilding our economy,” said Dave Earle, president and CEO, British Columbia Trucking Association. “The Automated Avalanche Detection System helps B.C.’s avalanche experts to continuously monitor avalanche activity day or night, in any weather condition, and ensures our members can safely traverse the Highway 37A corridor. We applaud the provincial government’s commitment to increasing transportation reliability and highway safety.”

As of May 30, 2020, the automated avalanche detection system will have completed the first year of a three-year pilot project, made possible through a $1.8-million investment through the ministry’s Intelligent Transportation Systems program. This investment included two self-powered radar detection stations with high-definition cameras and communications equipment.

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