Operation PALACI

Operation PALACI is Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) support for the Parks Canada program to control avalanches in Rogers Pass, British Columbia. Rogers Pass is where the Trans-Canada Highway and the Canadian Pacific Railway cross the Selkirk Mountains. The goal of the mission is to stop avalanches from occurring naturally.  If avalanches take place in Rogers Pass, they can block essential roads and railways between British Columbia and the rest of Canada.

Operation PALACI is run under an agreement between the Department of National Defence (DND) and Parks Canada.  Rogers Pass is on federal land because it is in Glacier National Park.

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On November 20, 17 CAF artillery troops began serving on Operation PALACI in Rogers Pass in support of Parks Canada. The troops are mainly from 1er Régiment, Royal Canadian Horse Artillery with reinforcement from reservists across the country .

The task force

The Operation PALACI task force is made up from the Royal Canadian Artillery (RCA). The RCA is a combat arms branch of the Canadian Army. Task force members serve from both Regular and Reserve Force artillery units.  Joint Task Force Pacific directs the operation from Esquimalt, British Columbia.

The CAF sends an artillery task force to Rogers Pass every year, from November to April. CAF members who are artillery specialists are sent in two separate groups. Each group serves for about half the season. They use 105-mm howitzer field guns. These are modified for precision firing from roadside platforms.

Mission overview

The threat

Rogers Pass is a shortcut for the Trans-Canada Highway and the Canadian Pacific Railway. It cuts across the "Big Bend" of the Columbia River between Revelstoke and Donald, British Columbia.

The pass is at 1,330 metres above sea level. It has an average annual snow accumulation of 12 metres. It is the site of frequent avalanches.  Between 1885 and 1916, more than 250 railway workers died there due to avalanches. Today, Rogers Pass has more than 130 avalanche paths that cross the Trans-Canada Highway. It has the highest avalanche rating of any major road in North America.

The mission

The Royal Canadian Artillery has been key to the world's largest mobile avalanche-control program for more than 50 years.

Parks Canada scientists monitor and evaluate the snow conditions in Rogers Pass. They predict when and where avalanches are most likely to occur. When they identify a potential avalanche, they give the location to the artillery task force.

Gun crews fire from 17 positions along the Trans-Canada Highway. The gunners direct their fire on registered targets. The distances range from three to five kilometres. They use explosive shells to trigger safe, controlled avalanches. This prevents snow build-up that would produce dangerous, uncontrolled avalanches.

The highway and the rail line are closed to traffic before each shoot, and each one is done with caution. When each shoot is completed, the fallen snow is cleared from the route. It is then opened to traffic again.

The results

The traffic in Rogers Pass in winter can reach 4,000 motor vehicles and 40 trains per day. There is a high value placed on keeping these road and rail links open all year. The commercial traffic between coastal British Columbia and the rest of Canada has been calculated in the billions of dollars.

Past missions

2016/2017

2016/2017

CAF Artillery troops served on Operation PALACI in Rogers Pass in support of Parks Canada. The avalanche season ran from November 24, 2016 to April 24, 2017.  The troops were mainly from the 1st Regiment, Royal Canadian Horse Artillery (RCHA). It is a Regular Force artillery unit from Canadian Forces Base (CFB) Shilo, Manitoba.  CAF members from various Reserve Force artillery units also served. Troops deployed to Rogers Pass in two separate groups. Each group served for about 10 to 12 weeks. They used 105-mm C3 Howitzers adapted to fit gun platforms placed on sites along the road through the pass.

2015/2016

2015/2016

Two groups of 17 CAF members served on Op PALACI in Rogers Pass. This was in support of Parks Canada. The avalanche season ran from November 16, 2015 to April 15, 2016.  The members came from these CAF artillery units:

  • 1st Regiment, Royal Canadian Horse Artillery (CFB Shilo, Manitoba);
  • 5e Régiment d'artillerie légère du Canada (Garnison de Valcartier, Québec); and
  • CAF members from Reserve Force artillery units in Western Canada. 
2014/2015

2014/2015

Two groups of 17 CAF members served on Op PALACI in Rogers Pass. This was in support of Parks Canada. The avalanche season ran from November 24, 2014 to April 9, 2015. The members came from the following CAF artillery unit:

  • 1st Regiment, Royal Canadian Horse Artillery (CFB Shilo, Manitoba).
2013/2014

2013/2014

Two groups of 15 CAF members served on Op PALACI in Rogers Pass. This was in support of Parks Canada. The avalanche season ran from November 25, 2013 to April 29, 2014. The members came from the following CAF artillery unit:

  • 5e Régiment d’artillerie légère du Canada (Garnison de Valcartier, Québec).
2012/2013

2012/2013

Two groups of 17 CAF members served on Op PALACI in Rogers Pass. This was in support of Parks Canada. The avalanche season ran from November 22, 2012 to April 16, 2013. The members came from the following CAF artillery unit:

  • 1st Regiment, Royal Canadian Horse Artillery (CFB Shilo, Manitoba).
2011/2012

2011/2012

Two groups of 17 CAF members served on Op PALACI in Rogers Pass. This was in support of Parks Canada. The avalanche season ran from November 22, 2011 to April 27, 2012. The members came from the following CAF artillery unit:

  • 1st Regiment, Royal Canadian Horse Artillery (CFB Shilo, Manitoba).

Links

Department of National Defence

Parks Canada

Flickr Image Gallery

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