Explosives blow out ice bridge over Provo River

Jun 7, 2023, 6:24 PM | Updated: Jun 16, 2023, 11:58 am

PROVO, Utah — Traffic in Provo Canyon came to a temporary standstill Wednesday afternoon as a bomb squad used explosives to destroy an ice bridge that formed over the Provo River as a result of a massive avalanche by the popular Bridal Veil Falls over the winter.

The detonation was one of a few tactics to clear some of the avalanche debris to help reduce new safety concerns that emerged last week. It happened after volunteers and crews with the Utah County Sheriff’s Office, Utah Highway Patrol and the Central Utah Water Conservancy District gathered at the waterfall to clear out some of the remaining debris, said Utah County Sheriff’s Sgt. Spencer Cannon.

‘Stay away’: Utah County officials urge caution around avalanche debris at Bridal Veil Falls

He explained that deputies halted traffic in the area for about 15 minutes as a safety precaution.

“When you use explosives in any kind of an operation, you have to exercise extreme caution because when the explosion goes up, it sends whatever is in the area up with it,” he said.

The avalanche occurred in January, leading to a deposit of about 20 to 30 feet or more of snow, ice, logs, branches, rocks and dirt by the base of the waterfall, initially covering the Provo River. Most of the deposit has remained there since then, which has ultimately led to safety concerns as the temperatures warm up and more people are seeking to recreate in the area, Cannon said.

He explained that the area by the waterfall is still closed; however, he said visitors have “consistently and regularly ignored” additional signs pointing out the closure.

The tipping point was a video that surfaced last week of a person jumping through a hole in the large deposit and into the raging river below. The individual was able to swim to shore unharmed. Cannon said that the main reason for Wednesday’s project was to “break down” some of the remaining avalanche deposit so that people can’t replicate what that person did.

It’s not just that the river is running faster than usual because of the season’s record snowpack, officials say people can be injured by landing on shallow boulders below fast-moving currents.

“That is incredibly risky behavior. It can be life-threatening,” he said. “We don’t want someone to die as a result of the risky behavior that that person engaged in here last week. … It boggles our mind that people think that it’s OK and safe to jump into the river here.”

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Explosives blow out ice bridge over Provo River