British Columbia

Get to the chopper! Helicopter placed on standby for Alex Fraser Bridge de-icing

A heavy-lift helicopter has been called in to help keep traffic flowing smoothly on a Vancouver-area bridge where vehicles have been damaged by so-called ice bombs.

Lanes on the bridge have twice been closed over the past week because of winter debris falling from the cables

B.C.'s Transportation Ministry says a chopper will be deployed when needed to blow snow and ice from the cables of the Alex Fraser Bridge. (Ministry of Transportation )

A heavy-lift helicopter has been called in to help keep traffic flowing smoothly on a Vancouver-area bridge where vehicles have been damaged by so-called ice bombs.

B.C.'s Transportation Ministry says a chopper will be deployed when needed to blow snow and ice from the cables of the Alex Fraser Bridge, which spans the Fraser River between Richmond and Delta.

According to officials, if weather technicians believe the cables will start shedding snow, the bridge would be closed quickly, and a helicopter would be deployed from Boundary Bay, going close to each side until the snow was blown off. 

The entire operation — including cleaning up the bridge afterwards — would take an estimated two to three hours, and cost about $30,000 per use. 

Lanes on the bridge have twice been closed over the past week because of winter debris falling from the cables onto the span and posing a threat to drivers.

In both instances, the bridge was closed for more than four hours.

"This took some effort to figure out what we could do ... after Monday's event, we pulled together a team of bridge and weather experts, and tested a number of different things," said Norm Parkes, the executive director of highway operations.

"A helicopter seemed to be the one that could be deployed pretty quickly and be effective."

Before the closure, falling ice and snow shattered several dozen windshields, prompting the provincial government to offer to pay drivers' insurance deductibles.

The government says the helicopter is only a temporary solution, and that a more permanent fix is in the works.

Another snowstorm is expected this weekend

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