(Brian Zanussi photo)

B.C. couple caught in Kootenay Pass avalanche

Just after the ministry carried out avalanche control and opened the highway a Rossland couple was almost swept away by snow

A Rossland couple was caught in an avalanche on the Kootenay Pass Sunday afternoon — all within a half hour of the highway was reopened.

Brian Zanussi, his wife, and the family dog were on their way back from a weekend in Kimberley when they were stuck in a huge back up of traffic on the Creston-side while the ministry carried out avalanche control.

Shortly after 3:30 p.m. the highway opened up and away they went in the couple’s Dodge pick-up truck.

RELATED: Work is play for Avalanche Rescue Dogs

It wasn’t long after they crested the top of the pass and headed down toward Salmo that things took a scary turn.

Brian recalls seeing bits of snow starting to tumble down the hill, and his wife gave a warning cry.

Before he knew it, the rear of the vehicle ahead was impacted by a rush of snow and propelled forward. Brian recalls the snow carried his truck dangerously close to the steep embankment on the left-hand side.

“The snow was fast, you couldn’t outrun it,” he said. “But it was calm, like a river of snow.”

Other than being shaken up, no one was hurt.

The vehicles involved were damaged, and Brian says his truck is in the shop for a wheel realignment (snow from the avalanche was packed tightly into the wheel wells).

Because the ministry had just finished avalanche control, a crew was not far down the hill from where the incident occurred.

The highway was again closed so workers could clear the avalanche which Brian estimates was about six feet high and 30-or-so-feet wide.

DriveBC issued an advisory on Sunday afternoon that the Kootenay Pass would remain closed until 11 p.m. for avalanche deposit removal. Notably, the highway stayed closed until approximately 2 a.m. Avalanche control was undertaken Monday morning and afternoon as well.

On Monday, the Ministry of Transportation issued a warning that spring snowstorms were expected to hit Southern Interior highways.

RELATED: The science of snow

“Environment Canada has issued warnings and special weather statements for the Southern Interior, as heavy snowfall is expected on many British Columbia highways within the next 24 hours,” the advisory read.

Although spring has officially arrived, weather can change quickly on high mountain passes, and drivers can still encounter challenging conditions.

Snow is expected to start falling in the Southern Interior this afternoon, with as much as 30 centimetres expected on Highway 3 from Paulson Summit to Kootenay Pass by tomorrow morning.

Ten to 15 centimetres of snow was forecast for the Coquihalla between Hope and Merritt, Highway 3 from Hope to Princeton, and sections of Highway 97 and 97C.

In other areas, 10 to 20 centimetres was expected for the Trans-Canada Highway from Eagle Pass to Rogers Pass. The South Peace River region could see 15 to 25 centimetres.

The ministry’s road and bridge maintenance contractors are prepared for this late-season storm, and will fully deploy resources as needed to ensure public safety.

The ministry recently announced several enhancements to winter maintenance and preparation that will go into effect next winter, including extending winter tire and chain regulations on select highways to April 30.

Other changes include improved oversight of highway maintenance contractors, stricter commercial vehicle chain-up restrictions and fines, and investing $1.8 million over the next three years in additional weather stations and overhead message signs to provide better real-time weather and road condition information.

For travel information, available 24/7, go to www.DriveBC.ca.

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Campbell River mom’s iPhone containing priceless photos stolen from Victoria hospital parkade

The phone contained photos, heartbeat recordings of her late son

North Island Rising: Carbon pricing

“I’ve been fortunate enough to hear from and talk with all sides of the climate discussion”

Port McNeill council wants to see a plan on how to protect and invest tax dollars

“if we can make $40,000 or $50,000 in interest, why not, as it could reduce taxes”

Gate House Theatre presents: A Suessified Christmas Carol

The play was an entertaining, amusing and engaging blend of the rhyme based story telling.

Bradshaw’s Photo Highlight: San Josef Bay

“I have always had an overwhelming desire to get to the sea stacks as soon as possible”

VIDEO: Boys help rescue Cariboo bear cub

The cub, weighing just 24lbs, has been taken to wildlife sanctuary in Northwest B.C. for the winter

B.C.-born hockey official talks to IIHF about switching European rule book to NHL rules

Rob Shick will represent NHL at 4th World Hockey Forum in Russia

Miller nets winner as Canucks edge Sabres 6-5 in OT

Roussel, Leivo tally two apiece for Vancouver

‘Norovirus-like’ outbreak interrupts Bantam hockey showcase in Greater Victoria

Several athletes were sent home, quarantined on the ferry

$578: that’s how much your first distracted driving ticket will cost with recent premium hikes

Over 50 per cent of Canadians admitted to using phone while driving last year, according to study

Kelowna man attempts to steal bait bike from RCMP parking lot

38-year-old Brian Richard Harbison is facing several charges

‘Things haven’t changed enough:’ Ecole Polytechnique anniversary prompts reflection

Fourteen women were fatally shot by a gunman at the Montreal school on Dec. 6, 1989

Bear raids freezer, gorges on Island family’s Christmas baking

Hungry bruin virtually ignored meat and fish, focused, instead, on the sweets

B.C. pharmaceutical company’s stocks double in value after successful lupus drug trial

More than 40 per cent of patients using voclosporin saw improvements in kidney function

Most Read