Avalanche warning issued as heavy snowfall shuts two B.C. highways

Vehicles drive along the Coquihalla Highway, Wednesday, Jan. 19, 2022.

Avalanche Canada has issued a warning for wide swaths of the British Columbia Interior into parts of Alberta, as “very dangerous” conditions are forecasted to persist through the weekend.

The agency says the warning applies through to Monday for mountainous regions of southwestern and northwestern B.C., as well as the eastern part of the province including the Rockies into Alberta’s Kananaskis Country.

Avalanche Canada says recent storms have deposited a large amount of snow, which is sitting on “weak layers established in early February” that are prone to setting off human-triggered avalanches.

Heavy snowfall and winter storm conditions this week have also shut down high-elevation stretches of two highways in the B.C. Interior.

Highway 1 from Revelstoke to Golden is closed due to avalanche risk, while the Ministry of Transportation’s DriveBC site says the Coquihalla Highway between Merritt and Hope has been shut because of wintry driving conditions.

Environment Canada says winter storm warnings remain in place for both routes, in addition to sections of Highway 3 and Highway 16 from Tete Jaune Cache to the Alberta border.

The weather agency says the Pacific frontal system behind the winter storm has dropped 57 centimetres of snow in Whistler, up to 60 centimetres on the Sea to Sky Highway and 32 centimetres at Coquihalla Summit.

Avalanche Canada forecaster Tyson Rettie says in a statement that the agency has been tracking recent weak layers of snow, and the “instability” makes triggering an avalanche an active risk.

“We know backcountry users are eager to enjoy the snow,” Rettie says. “But it’s vital to not underestimate the instability of these weak layers.”

SEE PREVIOUS: Heavy snow, winter storm bring hazardous driving conditions to B.C. highways

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 29, 2024.

The Canadian Press

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