February 7, 2017
Lauren Alley, 406-888-5838
WEST GLACIER, MT. – BNSF Railway has requested and received a special use permit from Glacier National Park to conduct emergency avalanche hazard mitigation activities in an area along the southern boundary of the park. Avalanche mitigation activities will take place in the John F. Stevens Canyon area along the US Highway 2 Corridor. Recent winter storms with heavy snow accumulation and subsequent avalanche activity in this area prompted the railroad to request the permit to protect and ensure the safety of BNSF Railway employees and Amtrak passengers that pass through this area by rail.
Glacier National Park Superintendent Jeff Mow said, “We have received a significant storm through the region over the weekend, which has resulted in several avalanches. We are working with BNSF Railway to create safe conditions for their employees and passengers along the southern boundary of the park, and will continue to work with them to find long-term solutions.”
The permit allows the use of hand charges, and an avalauncher or other charges delivered by a helicopter during daylight hours. The planned mitigation activity is the use of a DaisyBell®, with other charges delivered by a helicopter as a backup. A DaisyBell® avalanche mitigation technique uses a cylinder suspended from a helicopter that can be positioned above the snowpack. It uses a small, controlled pressure wave from the sudden combustion of hydrogen to test slab stability or trigger the snow.
The permit allows BNSF Railway to initiate avalanche mitigation activities on Tuesday, February 7.
BNSF will work with the Montana Department of Transportation (MDT) to determine the precise time of the mitigation effort and when MDT will close US Highway 2 to through traffic for the avalanche mitigation process, if it has previously been reopened to traffic. Please visit the Montana Department of Transportation website for current road conditions at http://www.mdt511.com or download the mobile app at http://www.mdt.mt.gov/travinfo/mobile.shtml.
For updated information on avalanche hazard mitigation activities and related railway activities along the southern border of Glacier National Park, please contact BNSF Railway at 406-256-4217 or at Ross.Lane@bnsf.com.
BNSF last applied for and received an emergency permit from Glacier National Park in March, 2014, and conducted emergency avalanche hazard mitigation activity using a DaisyBell®.
In 2008, the park completed the environmental impact statement Avalanche Hazard Reduction by Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway in Glacier National Park and Flathead National Forest, Montana. In addition to long-term avalanche mitigation strategies, the plan permits emergency avalanche mitigation efforts in the event that human lives or resources are at risk and after all other options have been exercised by the railroad including train delays.
Railway traffic including Amtrak trains has been halted along the southern boundary of the park since Sunday, February 5. BNSF’s goal is to mitigate the avalanche hazard before the forecasted warming temperatures and rain arrive later this week, potentially further increasing slab instability.
To report snow slides and related activity within the park following this storm, please contact park headquarters at 406-888-7800.
Please visit the Flathead Avalanche Center website at http://www.flatheadavalanche.org/ for information about advisories, avalanche, snow pack and mountain weather information, as well as basic avalanche awareness and education.