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WARNING: 'Large, destructive avalanches' possible in most of BC's mountainous regions

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Andrea Bagley
Digital Reporter

Friday, February 21, 2014, 12:16 PM -

A massive avalanche, described as "big enough to destroy houses," closed BC's Coquihalla Highway on Thursday.

The Ministry of Transportation says avalanche-control work was scheduled for Friday morning, but there was no word on when the highway will reopen.


SEE ALSO: Avalanche shuts down BC highway


The ministry says the current storm cycle on the highway's corridor has created avalanche conditions not seen since the Coquihalla opened 27 years ago.

HIGH AVALANCHE RISK

There's a considerable to high avalanche risk across much of BC, prompting the Canadian Avalanche Centre to issue a special public warning.

"The warning is in effect immediately and extends to the end of the day on Wednesday, February 26," the CAC says.

According to Karl Klassen with the CAC, the heightened risk is a result of the extended dry period in late January and early February.

"That long drought left the surface of the snowpack in very bad shape," says Klassen. "Now the new snow is sitting on one of the worst weak layers we've seen in a few years. That weakness is currently anywhere between one and two metres deep so when it’s triggered, the resulting avalanches are very large."

Klassen adds that there's a lot of pent-up demand for outdoor activity following the dry spell, "but this weak layer is going to be a problem for the foreseeable future."

Recreationists are urged to stay cautious in avalanche terrain.

According to the CAC, those traveling to the backcountry should have:

  • An avalanche transceiver.
  • Probe.
  • Shovel.

In addition, "everyone should have some training in recognizing avalanche terrain and applying safe backcountry travel techniques," says the CAC.

With files from The Canadian Press

Windstorm knocks out power to hundreds on B.C.'s south coast
Man dies in B.C. avalanche
Avalanche control in the west: Reducing the risks of the unpredictable slides

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