Snow and Avalanche Center Avalanche News - 2004

Norway tests new AvalHex avalanche control system

20. November 2004

Early this week the avalanche season opened in Western Norway, blocking roads and threatening villages. The National Higway Authority has acquired it's first avalanche releaser, to test the possibility of a more controlled release of the masses of snow which assemble above roads and villages. These astounding masses of snow which perilously sweep down mountain slopes loom above us every winter. One cannot predict with accuracy when they will fall.

The aim of the new avalanche releaser will be to provoke avalanches in controlled situations. It is part of a research project involving the study of avalanche behaviour and road safety, the newspaper Fremover reports.

The five meter tall steel tower has been installed 400 meters above sea level on the Saeterlia Mountain slope in Troms County. It was in this area an avalanche occurred last year which blocked the main road for a week between Grovfjord and Gratangen. Fortunately there was no loss of life.

The avalanche releaser is a French construction equipped with 17 large balloons, each of which is encased in a steel capsule on top of the tower. With the use of remote control, road workers can fill the balloons with helium gas. When the balloons are full a firing charge causes them to explode. The air pressure from the explosion then provokes an avalanche to occur in a 40 meter radius from the explosion.

The instrument, weighing 800 kilos, has been transported to the mountain slope by helicopter. It is now fixed in place but it can be removed and used in other avalanche areas around the country. Up to now, Norwegian avalanche experts have dropped explosive charges from helicopters to release dangerous masses of snow.

(Fremover/Norway Post)

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