Avalanche Control

Discussion in 'Postwar' started by canuck, Dec 27, 2017.

  1. canuck

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    RCHA Avalanche Control Battery, Glacier National Park, B.C. using 105-mm howitzer field guns.This photo dates to the 1980s.

    The operation typically involves 17 artillery members dispatched in two rotations to the resort communities of the Rocky Mountains.

    Avalanche Control

    Operation PALACI is Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) support for the Parks Canada program to control avalanches in Rogers Pass, British Columbia. Rogers Pass is where the Trans-Canada Highway and the Canadian Pacific Railway cross the Selkirk Mountains. The goal of the mission is to stop avalanches from occurring naturally. If avalanches take place in Rogers Pass, they can block essential roads and railways between British Columbia and the rest of Canada.

    The CAF sends an artillery task force to Rogers Pass every year, from November to April. CAF members who are artillery specialists are sent in two separate groups. Each group serves for about half the season. They use 105-mm howitzer field guns. These are modified for precision firing from roadside platforms.

    The operation has been carried out every year since the 1962 opening of the Trans-Canada Highway. And in principle, it’s relatively simple: Road crews close a section of highway, artillery units move in to blast away at snow pack, and then snow ploughs are dispatched to clear whatever hits the highway.

    “You’re standing there and everybody just disappears and then everybody reappears and we dust ourselves off and fire at the next avalanche,” Sgt. Dave Jarrell, an Operation Palaci member, told a reporter in 2015.

    The area’s avalanches have been known to wipe whole trains from sight and killed more than 200 railway workers by the early years of the 20th century.

    The 1910 Rogers Pass avalanche, which killed 62 workers, is still Canada’s deadliest avalanche. It’s also in the same general vicinity where Michel Trudeau, the youngest brother of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, was killed by an avalanche in 1998.

    This year’s snow soldiers all come from the 1st Regiment, Royal Canadian Horse Artillery, based out of Shilo, Man. Equipped with C3 105-mm Howitzers, the gun crews move between one of 17 permanent highway-side gun platforms.

    A fair amount of shellfire falls on Glacier National Park as a result. In 2013, for instance, Operation Palaci fired off 411 rounds, triggering 245 avalanches. In the 1980s, rates of fire occasionally topped 800.

    Source Department of National Defence / Library and Archives Canada
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