More blasting at slide site

Alanna Kelly

UPDATE: 4:50 p.m.

More rock was blasted on Tuesday from the site of a rockslide north of Summerland, and crews are hopeful Highway 97 will reopen – but it will depend on another blast on Wednesday.

The Ministry of Transportation says crews removed more than 500 cubic metres of material from the site today, in the sections where it is safe for them to work. 

“More blasting will occur tomorrow morning and, depending on the geotechnical assessment to follow, could provide ministry staff with a more detailed timeline of reopening,” said staff. 

Safety is the top priority for the ministry, and there are still many variables that could affect the opening of the highway. 

“After the highway is deemed safe for the travelling public, there will still be considerable work required to ensure the longer-term stability of the site."

The hope is to have intermittent closures through daytime hours in the weeks to come.

“Our engineers have approved clearance for emergency vehicles to proceed through the slide area, with a ministry pilot and spotters in place, when absolutely necessary,” said the spokesperson. 

Drivers are being reminded that only approved detours should be taken and not any other routes. 

UPDATE: 11:40 a.m.

Blasting work done at the scene of a massive rockslide on Monday sent 100 cubic metres of material down and improved access to workers.

If things go as planned, MLA Dan Ashton says Highway 97 will be open by noon on Wednesday, or possibly earlier.

Two lanes are anticipated to be open with one in each direction.

“Drilling and blasting is continuing today as we work to open the road as soon as possible,” said BC Transportation. 

Scalers have moved further north on the slope to prepare for further blasting and two excavators and a rock hammer on site to keep building the access up the slope.

"Our maintenance contractor, Argo, has mobilized large off-highway rock trucks to remove as much material as soon as possible after blasting," said the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure.

Drivers wanting to get to and from Kelowna or Penticton should expect an estimated two-hour drive, one way. 

Drive BC says the detour through the 201 Forest Service Road is an extra 90 minutes, as opposed to the Highway 97 between Peachland and Summerland.
FSR 201 is being maintained in “good winter driving conditions’ and being sanded. 

Signage and road markings are in place on FSR to assist drivers. 

“Speed limit along 201 Forest Service Road is 50 km/h, and people must drive with caution,” said a spokesperson. “Alternative route for vehicles 5 tons or less.”

For more details visit this link. 

UPDATE: 11:20 a.m.

MLA Dan Ashton says they expect Highway 97 to be open by noon tomorrow, if not earlier. 

Blasting yesterday allowed the slopes to stabilize, and the plan is to open two lanes to traffic, one in each direction. 

A large amount of material needs to be removed, but enough is expected to be out of the way to have traffic flowing sometime in the morning. 

Once the highway is re-opened, a schedule will be released with temporary closures listed as work continues. 

- with files from Chelsea Powrie

UPDATE: 10:15 a.m.

Engineers are at the location of a rockslide in Summerland right now and multiple blasts are expected to take place today. 

Castanet has learned that one blast did take place yesterday after 3 p.m.

"The blasting that took place at the site yesterday went well, as approximately 100 cubic metres of material was brought down, resulting in improved access at the site," said the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure.

At least three more blasts are expected to take place on the slope today. 

Once it is safe to do so, crews will clean up the boulders and debris and access through will be granted.

UPDATE: 10 a.m.

Rock scalers are getting ready to blast at the scene of a rockslide in Summerland on Tuesday morning.

The Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure tweeted a picture of three crew members walking on the cliff side at 9:30 a.m.

Highway 97 remains closed, and Drive BC does not have an estimated time of reopening.

ORIGINAL: 5 a.m.

Residents are being asked to be patient as crews continue to work on a section of Highway 97 just outside of Summerland after rock and debris covered the road.

The rockslide, which started moving on Thursday night, sent boulders bigger than the size of vehicles onto the roadway.

Saturday morning sent a different wave of debris and caused the highway between Peachland and Summerland to be shut down, cutting off the direct passageway to Penticton and Kelowna.

Blasting was done to the top of the slope on Monday to get stability and allow staff to remove the debris. Once it is safe to do so, crews will clean up the boulders and debris and access through will be granted.

Drive BC said there is no estimated time of reopening the road and the next update would come on Tuesday at noon.

Drivers are being reminded to stick to the suggested routes by DriveBC after eight people had to be rescued from Garnet Valley Road.

“Some drivers still appear to be relying on GPS's or in-car navigation systems to get from Penticton to Kelowna via back roads behind Summerland,” said Penticton SAR manager Randy Brown.

With no expected date of reopening, MLA Dan Ashton says he understands that residents are frustrated.

“I would urge people to give the professionals some time here so that it is safe for all,” he said.

Ministry staff said safety is their top priority and they will reopen the road as soon as it is safe to do so.

An alternate route for light vehicles has been established on the 201 Forest Service Road, which is accessed off Highway 33 near McCulloch Road in Kelowna, and via Warren Avenue and Carmi Avenue in Penticton.

The road is maintained by the Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resources and Rural Development, and is in good condition as there has been active logging in the area.

Larger vehicles and commercial trucks must detour via Highway 97C, Highway 5A and Highway 3A to Highway 3.

For updates on road conditions visit this link.

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