UDOT tests howitzers to prepare for avalanche season

Nov 22, 2022, 7:30 PM

The Utah Department of Transportation test-fired howitzers on Tuesday to prepare for the avalanche season. Photo credit: Utah Department of Transportation.

SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah Department of Transportation spent Tuesday preparing for the avalanche season.

In Big and Little Cottonwood canyons, UDOT was test-firing howitzers that will be used to create controlled avalanches. According to a news release from UDOT, the test-firing is needed to make sure the howitzers are on target.

The controlled avalanches will help keep drivers safe on SR-190 and SR-210 during the winter months.

“Our goal is to make sure people can travel safely in our canyons throughout the winter,” said Steven Clark, UDOT avalanche program manager in a news release. “We’re always working to keep these vital highways open as much as possible. So, Utahns and visitors can get to our state’s world-class outdoor recreation areas.”  

In addition to howitzers, UDOT uses other methods in its efforts to control avalanches. Those methods include:

  • Explosives. Placed by hand or helicopter.
  • Avalaunchers. This uses compressed gas to create a small explosive. 
  • Remote Avalanche Control Systems. Small towers placed in the paths of known avalanches. These use air/fuel mixtures to create a small explosion when activated remotely. 

According to the news release, there are 70 avalanche paths in Little Cottonwood Canyon that cross SR-210. Having a variety of tools gives UDOT multiple options in controlling avalanches in not just Little Cottonwood Canyon, but also SR-190 in Big Cottonwood Canyon and US-189 in Provo Canyon.  

“UDOT is one of the leaders in transportation avalanche mitigation,” Clark said. “We utilize the newest technologies and are always looking to incorporate new techniques and equipment to ensure safety for all canyon travelers.”

Motorists can obtain the latest road information from UDOT by clicking here

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UDOT tests howitzers to prepare for avalanche season