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BC's Highway 16 reopens after major avalanche Monday

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Digital writers
theweathernetwork.com

Tuesday, January 14, 2014, 6:58 AM -

Highway 16 near Mount Robson at the BC and Alberta border has been reopened after a major avalanche came down Monday morning. 

Officials say the slide was about 400 metres wide and closed down the highway for most of the day. 

While no vehicles were trapped in the avalanche, Mounties say one person in a pick up truck did try to drive through and got stuck. 

Transport Ministry spokesman Greg Bruce says 50 to 60 cm of snow fell over the weekend, the highest level seen in 20 years.

Highway 1 was also closed in both directions west of Revelstoke Monday for avalanche control.

Sections of the Trans-Canada Highway were also closed in both directions between Revelstoke and Lake Louise due to the elevated avalanche risk and avalanche control measures took place on Highways 31 and 37A as well. 

Torrential rain elsewhere in the province led to a train derailment near the Vancouver area on over the weekend, according to CN Rail spokeswoman Emily Hamer. 

In an interview with The Canadian Press, Hamer said the increased rain amounts caused a beaver dam to wash out, spilling great amounts of water onto the tracks and causing a train near Burnaby Lake in B.C.'s Lower Mainland to jump the tracks Saturday morning. 

AVALANCHE SAFETY ON THE SLOPES

When it comes to avalanche safety, experts say it's best to plan ahead -- especially for people planning on hitting the slopes.

“People have to be prepared with the best current avalanche information. Consulting the bulletin at avalanche.ca is a good option. Here you can find the latest dangers and how it could affect you if you're venturing out in those areas,” John Kelly, Operations Manager with the Canadian Avalanche Centre (CAC) told The Weather Network in 2012. 

Besides visiting the website, another protective measure people should consider is an avalanche skills training program. The courses teach anything from avalanche warning signs, to the importance of an avalanche forecast and what to do if you are caught in a landslide of snow.

But, similar to a weather forecast, avalanche forecasts are not full-proof and one can occur without warning or foresight.

“Slide conditions change fairly rapidly, so what starts out as a good year can turn bad. Sometimes bad layers in the snow pack can heal.” says Kelly.

When it comes to triggers, no one is safe, including avalanche experts. Even with training and education in avalanche safety, there is always a risk of getting caught in sliding snow. Albi Sole of the University of Calgary recalls how another day at the job, almost turned deadly. 

"It's one of the ironies of life, that no matter how expert you are, you can still make mistakes," says Sole. "I had a list as long as my arm as to why no avalanche would happen on that slope [that] day, and I was wrong, it happens. 

Luckily, Sole made it through the avalanche alive, but wants his story to be a cautionary tale of how spontaneous some avalanches can be. 


RELATED: Heavy rainfall contributes to train derailment near Vancouver


If you do become buried, Sole says the best chance of survival lies within having a transceiver so that rescuers can find your location.

If you get buried there's nothing you can do, unless you are equipped with a transceiver and your buddies have a transceiver, and know how to use it." he says.

According to the CAC, 146 fatalities were caused by avalanches within the years of 2000-2010. Snowmobiling is now the backcountry activity that accounts for the most avalanche fatalities.

With files from the Canadian Press

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