A major avalanche blocks the Illecillewaet

By David F. Rooney

A major avalanche that occurred near the Lanark snow shed on the Trans-Canada Highway about 10 am Tuesday morning has partially dammed the Illecillewaet River and may pose a threat to river-side residences, says Emergency Program Coordinator Gerry Silva.

He told City Council’s Committee of the Whole Tuesday afternoon that while there is no reason to panic, evacuation notices are being prepared — just in case.

“We are prepared to react if necessary,” he said, adding that “we are not in imminent danger.”

The avalanche was classed as a 4.5 and occurred about 45 kilometres east of Revelstoke. The snow shed is 400 metres outside of the west boundary of Glacier National Park. The pond that has collected behind the mass of trees, debris, snow and ice partially damming the river was (as of Tuesday afternoon) about 250 metres long, 150 metres wide and five metres deep, Silva said.

He said he understands that similar dams have occurred in the past on the Illecillewaet with little or no damage to Revelstoke. However, he recommended that as a precaution anyone living near the river pack one bag (per person) with enough clothing for 72 hours. If you don’t know what to pack, please go to the emergency services website. There you will find information about what you may need.

The City’s Emergency Operations Centre has been activated at City Hall and will be fully manned until this event has been resolved. The Columbia Shuswap Regional District’s emergency services personnel are contacting residents at Albert Canyon and Greeley about the nature of the potential threat.

Public notices will be issued through the news media and, should a threat occur late at night, police and fire department vehicles with loudhailers will alert people.

Here is the text of the public notice posted on the emergency services website:


The City of Revelstoke wishes to advise the public of an avalanche at the Lanark Slide site, which is 400 metres West from the Glacier Park Boundary, on the Trans Canada Highway.

There is a back up of the Illecillewaet River due to some avalanche debris affecting the flow of the river.  The Illecillewaet River continues to flow at this time.

The City of Revelstoke, Columbia Shuswap Regional District, Parks Canada, and the Ministry of Transportation are monitoring the situation as avalanche control continues.

The City is optimistic that this matter will be resolved in the coming days.  Emergency services are being proactive and an Emergency Operations Centre has been activated in accordance with the Revelstoke and Area Emergency Management Plan.  All necessary steps are being taken to mitigate any risk to the public.

A further update will be released by the City of Revelstoke at 12 noon, Wednesday, January 19, 2011, or sooner if the status changes.