Avalanche Fatalities in Canada and USA

(Photo by Nicolas Teichrob)

(Photo: Nicolas Teichrob)

Abstract

Introduction

Methodology

Results and Analysis

Conclusion

INFORMATION

Rogers Pass, BC

Snowmobile Accidents

ADFAR Project

Canada vs USA Standards

Avalanche Assessment

 

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Avalanche Fatalities in Canada

Avalanche Fatalities in the USA

 

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Rogers Pass

British Columbia


    In Canada over the past 90 years, there have been many fatalities that have been caused by avalanches while in transport.  The Canadian Pacific Railway system has been devastated throughout history because of the significant number of deaths during construction and while in motion.  Now that this area supports a main vein of transportation through Canada,  (Trans-Canada Highway travelling through the heart of avalanche paths), an effective avalanche control centre has been implemented.   If you are travelling between Revelstoke and Golden near the British Columbian/Alberta border, you will drive through 5 protective tunnels that help to redirect avalanche flows and you run the possibility of prolonged travel time because of highway closures.  This area undergoes significant daily monitoring, avalanche forecasting and bombing to help keep avalanches under control and to help keep our travellers and railway workers free from these deadly avalanches.
        Rogers Pass is located along the Trans-Canada Highway at the summit of Mount McDonald in Glacier National Park, 700 km east of Revelstoke and 80 km west of Golden. 
    This well-used route was first used by the CPR in 1885.  Before this date, many long days of research and construction were in progress at Rogers Pass.            
             
CPR     
Historical Background:
    

  
 Research and interest in construction of the railway began in 1870's.  By 1883, the CPR was being built in the Selkirks and was first traveled on in 1885.  The railway workers were subject to a low wage and hard work under horrible working conditions.  On January 30, 1899, an avalanche plunged into the town where the CPR workers lived.  This hazardous event showed the dangers involved with road/railway construction in avalanche paths.
   
    In 1910, railway workers were clearing an avalanche in Rogers Pass that had blocked the railway.  Around midnight, another avalanche came down and buried the workers.  62 people were killed in this large avalanche.

    There was 74 hazard areas susceptible to avalanches.  In 1953, there were three types of classifications of avalanches:
1.  Brittle snow that didn’t stick to slopes.
2.  Hard snow mass breaking off, gathering snow along slides
3. Massive ledges of snow turned ice which built up so weight caused it to break loose and plummet to the valley floor.

Because these avalanches were claiming lives and destroying homes and buildings, in 1956, a observation center was established on Mt. Abbot and new protective measures were researched for avalanche control.  There has been over 250 fatalities by avalanches during railway construction along Rogers Pass.
    In 1962, following avalanche defense engineering and protection, the Trans-Canada highway was built.  After the implementation of control and protection against avalanches, and the construction of several defense structures along the highway, this route is considered to be a safe in present time.  (Rogers Pass book)
    Parks Canada operates the world's largest mobile avalanche control program to keep the Trans-Canada Highway and the Canadian Pacific Railway operating sufficiently through Rogers Pass. 

Currently at Rogers Pass

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  The Roger's Pass avalanche control centre is the world's largest mobile avalanche control program.   This centre is located in the Selkirks Mountain range and this area is known for extreme rapidly changing weather conditions, steep slopes and rugged terrain.  Because of these parameters, this area is subject to large avalanches and snow flows over the highway, making it quite difficult for travel during the winter seasons.  The number of avalanche fatalities in transportation has decreased over the years.  Rogers Pass has decreased significantly because of the implementation of the control centre.  The snow and steep slopes are monitored daily.  The team of avalanche experts at the pass study:
It is these observations which help to make this region of the highway almost fatality-free over the last 50 years.      


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Google Earth.

This is a satellite image of a significant area prone to avalanches along the Trans-Canada Highway, Rogers Pass Area. This area is subject to very steep slopes, rapidly changing weather conditions and heavy amounts of snowfall. These are driving ingredients for avalanches.

Rogers Pass avalanche paths (photo by Nic Teichrob)     rogers pass avalanche paths close to the road
Rogers Pass avalanche paths
(photo by Nicolas Teichrob)         Rogers Pass avalanche paths along the highway (photo by Nicolas Teichrob)