Caution Colorado Hikers: 13 Undetonated Bombs Scattered on Mountains

Miguel Moreno
By Miguel Moreno
April 21, 2019US News
Caution Colorado Hikers: 13 Undetonated Bombs Scattered on Mountains
Snowy mountain peaks and clouds can be seen on Colorado's Loveland Pass as it traverses the Continental Divide, taken on May, 2013. (MichaelKirsh)

Hikers are being warned of undetonated explosives left after avalanche mitigation, said the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT). Some of the bombs used in the mountains were duds but could still explode.

The Durango Herald reported that a howitzer and helicopters shot and dropped 630 explosives in the southwest and south-central regions of the state, triggering avalanches over the winter. However, 13 did not go off.

“It’s not unknown for someone to come across a device that has not detonated, but they are in very rugged terrain,” CDOT Spokeswoman Lisa Schwantes told the newspaper. “We don’t want to scare anyone, but at the same time, we want to advise the public of the best safety instructions.”

People are advised to not approach or touch any large, bright orange, blue, or yellow torpedo shaped objects. Although the bullet shaped bombs pose a danger, Schwantes did not disclose their locations for public safety reasons.

CDOT knows where the howitzer shot all its bombs, and teams will be sent to recover them, reported The Durango Herald. Rugged and remote mountain terrain took most of the shots, which are “areas not accessed by the average hiker.”

Dropping Bombs on Colorado Mountains

Schwantes said that this isn’t abnormal; the national average of bombs that don’t live up to their purpose is about one percent. Across the entire state of Colorado, more than 1,500 bombs were launched; and in that total, 22 were failures.

450 of the 630 bombs launched in the southwest and south-central regions made impact with Coal Bank, Molas, and Red Mountain, (which took most of the firepower), according to the newspaper.

Colorado Mountains
Snowy mountain peaks and clouds can be seen on Colorado’s Loveland Pass as it traverses the Continental Divide, taken on May, 2013. (MichaelKirsh/Wikimedia Commons)

Records in Avalanche Season

The number of avalanche deaths this season in Colorado have broken the record set in 2013-2014, totaling at eight people this season, reported the Coloradoan. Twenty-two people have succumbed to the fury of avalanches this year, nationally.

The director of the Colorado Avalanche Information Center (CAIC) said that this year, many factors that wouldn’t usually happen in one year have created avalanche conditions never seen before. Avalanches are now being seen in locations where CAIC wouldn’t expect to see them.

“We are seeing more big avalanches than any of us really remember, and then there are other avalanches that have run bigger than anything on record,” Greene told the Coloradoan. “The other thing that is unprecedented is these very large avalanches are happening over a very large area of Colorado. We sometimes see these avalanches occurring in one or two of our (10) zones but we are seeing a perfect storm happen, and now we are seeing them in seven of our zones, and that has never happened.”

The state has recorded 2,500 avalanches this season, which is above average. Interstate 70 and US Route 40—both major highways in the United States—have been closed many times due to avalanches.

Greene explained to the Coloradoan that early in the season, a fragile base of snow was created; and continuous snow in January and February created a “strong mid-level snowpack.”

Then March poured another 100 inches on the already built, white blanket. The result: heavy avalanches.

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