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Automated System May Help Control Avalanches

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Avalanche warning signs along Berthoud Pass. (credit: CBS)

Avalanche warning signs along Berthoud Pass. (credit: CBS)

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EMPIRE, Colo. (CBS4)- Throughout the winter Highway 40 over Berthoud Pass is closed intermittently for avalanche control. This year, there’s a plan to change that.

The Colorado Department of Transportation wants to use an automated system to help manage those snow slides.

Instead of using avalanche cannons and munitions dropped from helicopters, the new system would use propane igniters to create a sonic boom to send smaller amounts of snow down the mountain.

“Because the big ones that come across the road and sometimes trap vehicles and things of that nature are extremely dangerous and something we want to avoid,” said CDOT spokesman Peter Kozinski.

CDOT has to get U.S. Forest Service approval for the project since the area is on federal land.

CDOT will also host a meeting for public input from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Dec. 1 at the Winter Park Town Hall located at 50 Vasquez Road.

During the meeting, members of the public will be able to learn and discuss how CDOT currently mitigates for avalanches and the safety protocol that is followed; learn about automated avalanche systems; discuss the perceived pros and cons of an automated avalanche system pilot project on US 40 over Berthoud Pass; and provide input on safety protocols to be used during the pilot project.

“We highly encourage the public to attend and participate in this meeting,” said Kozinski.

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