Resident describes “loud boom” of avalanche

avalanche, snow, trees, mountain
Photo submitted by Steve Blake
By Laura Keil

Hwy 16 was closed for nearly nine hours January 13 due to an avalanche on Shale Hill near Mount Robson. The slide was reported at 9:30am and was roughly two feet deep, covering roughly 40m of Hwy 16.

The slide reportedly went near Red Pass, at a location that has not slid since 1974. No residences are located in the vicinity.

The valley received about a metre of snow at the treeline over the weekend. On Monday, warm temperatures and rain led to rapid melt.

David Grant, who lives with his family at Mt. Robson, heard a loud boom that echoed through the valley. Heavy wet snow has wreaked havoc with trees and powerlines and Grant says since Dec 25th they have had 10 days without power or phones.

Lakes District Maintenance crews were on scene to assess the scale and scope of the slide. RCMP confirmed no vehicles were caught in the avalanche and no one was injured. RCMP say a pick up truck attempted to drive through the slide but became stuck in the debris and packed snow, which tore off part of the truck’s undercarriage. The avalanche brought down trees and rocks with it.

Ministry of Transportation advised at the time that the risk of additional slides was very high. An avalanche technician conducted several controlled slides by helicopter to eliminate any risk for work crews. Highway crews with heavy equipment cleared the highway once it was deemed safe. The highway re-opened at 6pm.

Flagging cews were located at both ends of the slide and in Jasper, Tete Jaune, McBride, and Valemount preventing any traffic from entering that area.

Highway was also closed January 13 between Revelstoke, Golden and the Alberta border due to the risk of avalanches. These two highways are the main connections between BC and Alberta. While Hwy 16 was closed, the only highway connecting the provinces was Hwy 3 and the roads north of Grande Prairie.