Explosions used to free dangerous buildups of snow
Road crews busy keeping drivers safe
Colorado averages more than 2,000 avalanches reported each season.
Some of them are natural, some are accidentally triggered, and others are started by the Colorado Department of Transportation, or C-DOT, with the goal of keeping you safe.
"If it's anywhere close that we think its going to come out on its own, we shut the road down and bring it out," explained TJ Blake of C-DOT as he and his crew worked feverishly on Grand Mesa early Tuesday morning.
Triggering avalanches under their control and in their time frame, that's what C-DOT workers were doing to stop slides from slipping onto Highway 65.
"This is our most prone area," said Blake. "We have a lot of avalanche come out. It's in the Skyway cliffs. We can get anywhere from a couple feet to fifteen feet on the road."
The whole operation involves explosives, and forecasting, to mitigate unwanted slides.
"When we shoot avalanches it just all varies on the amount of snow and the type of snow we get. That's why we rely heavily on our forecasters to tell us the stability of the snow and when for us to shoot," said Blake.
Rob Hunker has been forecasting avalanches for years, and when C-DOT mitigates, he's there to monitor.
"An avalanche occurs because of a weak layer in the snow pack that fails. It fails normally because of a load, a storm load normally," said Hunker.
The goal is to eliminate avalanches before they're triggered naturally.
"We were concerned with that failing and the entire snow pack coming out with the load from this new storm," Hunker explained.
Avalanche mitigation is a good test of snow stability. Mitigation experts know it's working when almost every shot triggers a slide.
"We get to play with explosives, have a good time, and get the public safe," explained Blake.
C-DOT works with avalanche forecasters to monitor and/or control nearly 300 avalanche paths in Colorado.
Copyright 2013 KJCT. All rights reserved.
This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
The following are comments from our users. Opinions expressed are neither created nor endorsed by KJCT, its web master or its television station management. These comments are moderated by the community. To report an offensive or otherwise inappropriate comment, click the "Flag" link that appears beneath that comment. Comments that are flagged will alert our editorial staff.