Over 30 avalanches close Highway 1

Last week’s Highway 1 closures cut off the main transportation corridor going in and out of Golden for over four days due to high avalanche activity.

  • Jan. 26, 2011 6:00 a.m.

Last week’s Highway 1 closures cut off the main transportation corridor going in and out of Golden for over four days due to high avalanche activity.

Last week’s Highway 1 closures cut off the main transportation corridor going in and out of Golden for over four days due to high avalanche activity.

Parks Canada announced on January 17th that the weather conditions have been considered the “perfect storm” for big avalanches. On the same day, The Ministry of Transportation announced that the Kicking Horse Canyon experienced a once-in-30 years avalanche cycle with over a metre of heavy snow falling on top of a weaker layer of snow. This, combined with unseasonably warm temperatures and strong alpine winds, resulted in over 30 avalanches falling in the canyon.

“A wide range of Parks Canada staff — avalanche forecasters, highway snowplough operators, visitor safety specialists, wardens, technical services personnel, search and rescuers, dispatchers, and public information officers — are working around the clock to re-open highways and travel corridors in Kootenay, Yoho, Banff and Glacier National Parks,” said a Parks Canada representative on the 17th. “Working alongside our provincial colleagues, our goal is to re-establish this vital transportation corridor in a timely and safe fashion.”

The highway from Golden to Revelstoke was re-opened on Monday, January 17th (after closing and opening several times) and the highway from Field to Golden was open by the evening of Wednesday, January 19th.

The town of Field was of particular interest to larger media outlets during the closure as the community is reliant on the Trans-Canada to transport goods.

A CBC article on Tuesday January 18th reported that “people are watching their food supply dwindle as they remain cut off from the rest of the world due to avalanches in the region”.

John Miller, a trucker stuck at the Ten-Mile Bridge Check and then later in Field, received national media attention by telling CBC that “They haven’t received supplies here in Field now for two weeks and that’s why the stores are basically down to zero. There’s only one day a week that the supplies will come in and because they’ve missed two of them already, the town is basically running out of food.”

A similar article was written in The Province.

These stories, according to Rick Renaud, co-owner of The Siding General Store, may have been blown a bit out of proportion.

“Yes, we were getting low on a few things, but that’s to be expected,” said Renaud. “The stories in the paper and on the radio portrayed us a little more desperate than we actually were.”

Renaud admitted it was probably the most difficult for the truckers who were stuck in the town.

“From their point of view it probably was turning into a desperate situation.”

Reanaud said he helped the truckers as much as he could with the food he had left.

John Miller called the Golden Star at the end of last week thanking all the people who helped him and the other truckers while they were stuck. In particular, he said, he would like to thank Rick for giving him his “last 13 potatoes”, an unnamed fellow who gave the stuck truckers two large bags of food and some cooked up tenderloin very early one morning.

“He and his wife must have been up in the middle of the night cooking the meat,” said Miller.

Field’s fire chief was also a great help.

“We don’t have any words to thank these people,” said Miller. “They were all so generous.”

As for Golden, business continued as usual with the exception of a few disruptions. CSRD sent a release on Tuesday explaining that the servicing vehicle had not been able to get to the recycling bins, which were overflowing.

“If the bins are full, please do not leave your recyclables on the ground, as this creates an unsightly situation for the depot operator as well as the neighbours. It is also illegal dumping and considered an offence under the Environmental Management Act,” it read in the release.

Sobeys’ store manager Cam Dawes said there were, of course, some late deliveries and deliveries that didn’t arrive at all, but the store didn’t run out of food.

“It was slim pickings for milk on Sunday night, but that’s to be expected,” said Dawes. He thinks the ice storm that closed the highways in all three directions, about six or seven years ago, was much worse than the storm Golden just experienced.

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