Rendering of the automated avalanche detection system on Highway 37A near Stewart. May 29, 2020. (B.C. Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure)

New technology is helping battle avalanches near Stewart

The automated avalanche detection system just finished a successful first season

There are almost 1,400 avalanche paths in British Columbia. This past season, Highway 37A to Stewart was a lot safer thanks to the help of some new technology.

One new tool for avalanche control is the automated avalanche detection system (AADS). It just completed its first year in a three-year pilot program on Highway 37A between Stewart and Meziadin Junction.

The AADS is made up of radar stations equipped with high-definition cameras and communications equipment at the Little Bears and George Copper avalanche areas.

The radar uses an algorithm to observe movement up to five kilometres away and sends real-time alerts and photos by way of a radio link station to a base in Stewart, where the team can determine what kind of response is required.

Highway 37A is the only road into and out of Stewart. Over the past 35 years, the highway averages 88 hours of preventative and unscheduled road closures per year.

Due to the help of the AADS system, Hwy 37A experienced only 39 closure hours, a drop of over 40 per cent from the average.

From Nov. 10, 2019 to mid-April 2020, the AADS detected around 1,200 avalanche events in the area, a number that would not have been possible without the technology. Avalanches not visible from the highway would not have been recorded at all.

READ MORE: Avalanche closes Hwy 37A into Stewart

“As B.C. begins to emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic, the efficient movement of goods remains a vital priority for rebuilding our economy,” said Dave Earle, president and CEO, British Columbia Trucking Association in the release.

“The Automated Avalanche Detection System helps B.C.’s avalanche experts to continuously monitor avalanche activity day or night, in any weather condition, and ensures our members can safely traverse the Highway 37A corridor. We applaud the provincial government’s commitment to increasing transportation reliability and highway safety.”

Switzerland and Norway already use AADS systems. The AADS on Highway 37A is the first to be put to work in Canada.


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