The Ministry of Transportation is planning to start drilling and blasting sometime today (Thursday, July 31) at the site of a massive slide on the Sea to Sky Highway at Porteau Cove.
According to the Ministry, a large section of granite overhanging the slide area will have to be cut back by blasting and scaling before crews can safely tackle the debris that’s strewn across roughly 100 metres of the highway. The debris is up to 10 metres deep in some places.
Some boulders are large enough that they will have to be blasted before they can be transported out of the area by truck.
The slide occurred at roughly 11:30 p.m. on Tuesday, and the highway could remain closed through the B.C. Day long weekend as crews remove an estimated 16,000 cubic metres of debris. The railway tracks were also destroyed by the slide, and will likely be closed for as long as, or longer than the highway.
So far no injuries are reported, but a northbound bus was damaged by falling rocks just before the slide occurred.
The cause of the slide has also yet to be determined, but it was raining heavily at the time the granite bluff just north of the Porteau Cove Provincial Park gave way. No highway construction work has been done in the area recently.
Mike Oliver, chief engineer for the cleanup project, told reporters this morning that it would take at least four more days to reopen the highway but promised a more exact assessment this afternoon. First, a large section of overhanging granite will be blasted away, and the cliff below it scaled to remove any loose rock.
The slide has had an impact on the Sea to Sky corridor, stranding visitors and workers, delaying shipments of food and fuel, and prompting many residents to stock up on everything in anticipation of shortages. The Whistler Husky gas station ran out of regular gas on Wednesday evening and premium gas on Thursday. However, more fuel is expected in the next day or two.
At grocery stores in Whistler and Squamish, people started stocking up on food — particularly dairy and produce — Wednesday afternoon. In some stores milk, yogurt, lettuce and several other items were in short supply by Wednesday evening.
While the closure of the Sea to Sky Highway severs a major transportation artery, options still exist for getting to Vancouver or Whistler this long weekend. The local and regional air carriers are running at capacity, and adding flights where possible. Prices range from $159 for West Coast Air, to more than $3,000 for a trip by helicopter between Vancouver Airport and Whistler.