By Jamie Leary
DENVER (CBS4) – The Colorado Department of Transportation is taking a new approach in avalanche mitigation work to increase safety along Colorado highways. Infrared technology is being used to not only make avalanche mitigation work more efficiently, but safer.
“These are pretty significant avalanche paths, and there’s a lot of traffic on these roads so we are constantly looking at ways that we can be better and we take it really seriously,” said Jamie Yount, CDOT’s Avalanche Program Manager.
CDOT now owns two pairs of infrared binoculars which will enable them to limit traffic interruptions and work at night.
“We’ve been really impressed with the results we’re getting with the thermal imaging,” said Yount. “Hopefully the traveling public won’t even know that we’re out there doing mitigation because we’ll be all done by the time they need to get where they’re going.”
Yount says the avalanche department of CDOT is a small operation, but works daily with the Colorado Avalanche Information Center to forecast conditions and mitigate risks.
“The whole idea is that we’re trying to release these avalanches when we want them to go and not just let a large storm come through and release them on their own,” said Ethan Greene, Director of the CAIC.
Greene admits to being a snow science nerd. He has a B.S. in Meteorology, an M.S. in Atmospheric Science and a Ph.D. in Geosciences. For him, this is a new way to approach avalanche mitigation.
“It’s really cool I mean there’s a lot of things that we get to see through those thermal imaging devices.”
Not only does it ensure there are no people or animals in the slide path, it also shows them more information about each avalanche.
“How big they are, how far they’re running, how much of the slope of is releasing. These devices allow us, or help us see all of that.”
The infrared technology is just the beginning.
In early 2019, CDOT plans to introduce state of the art technology. It’s made by the same company that designed CDOT’s Gazex system. This technology is different because it involves a removable avalanche control system. It’s based on exploding a hydrogen/oxygen gas mixture inside an open cone.
The new year is shaping up to be an exciting one in the way of avalanche mitigation for Colorado.
Jamie Leary joined the CBS4 team in 2015 and currently works as a reporter for CBS4 News at 5 p.m. and 6 p.m. She couldn’t imagine a better place to live and work and will stop at nothing to find the next great story. Jamie loves learning about and hearing from her fellow community members, so connect with her on Facebook or Twitter @JamieALeary.