A yellow helicopter buzzes around Mount Roberts with a piece of avalanche mitigation equipment known as a DaisyBell, Thursday, Jan. 17, 2019. (Ben Hohenstatt | Juneau Empire)

A yellow helicopter buzzes around Mount Roberts with a piece of avalanche mitigation equipment known as a DaisyBell, Thursday, Jan. 17, 2019. (Ben Hohenstatt | Juneau Empire)

Avalanche mitigation has a new look and sound

DaisyBell equipment gets its first public use at Mount Roberts

The yellow helicopter stood out against the bright blue backdrop of the noontime sky.

It dangled a dark blue object and hovered over points on Mount Roberts before emitting a gunshot-like crack that made its way across the channel while the aircraft darted to another point.

“Do you know what that is?” asked Akiko Rotch, who lives near Savikko Park and was taking photos along Sandy Beach on a sunny Thursday afternoon.

The helicopter was carrying a piece of equipment called a DaisyBell.

[Less howitzer, more DaisyBell]

The loud sounds were explosions generated by ignited gas being directed at snowpacks to help with avalanche mitigation. The system is an addition to the Alaska Department of Transportation & Public Facilities’ old method of firing a howitzer cannon at the snowy slopes over Thane Road.

While the DaisyBell has previously been tested, Thursday was the first time the $160,000 piece of equipment has been used in an operation. Ultimately, the DaisyBell is expected to be more cost effective in the long run because each DaisyBell shot costs about $5 and personnel with gunner certifications aren’t needed for missions.

No large avalanches were triggered, according to a report shared by the Department of Transportation and Public Facilities, but the system worked perfectly, and valuable site-specific information was gained that will be useful in future missions.

Rotch said she had no idea the hazard-reduction mission would be happening when she left the house.

“This is a lucky accident,” Rotch said while pointing her lens at the helicopter. “We used to have a dog, and it hated this kind of noise and vibration.”

[PHOTOS: Art in Unusual Places]

While the shots could be heard on the beach across the channel from the mountain, they were quieter than cannon fire that previously signaled avalanche mitigation.

The sounds did not seem to disturb the several dogs taking afternoon strolls on the beach.

Those included an 8-week-old sheep dog-poodle mix named Zella.

“Those don’t seem to bother her,” said Henson Germain, who walked near the scampering pooch.

Germain said Zella is too young for him to know if fireworks or other loud sounds upset the dog, but the vacuum doesn’t seem to provoke nerves. Neither did the DaisyBell, but it did cause Germain to pause for a moment and look up.

“It’s interesting how they’re doing it,” Germain said.


• Contact arts and culture reporter Ben Hohenstatt at (907)523-2243 or bhohenstatt@juneauempire.com.


A yellow helicopter buzzes around Mount Roberts with a piece of avalanche mitigation equipment known as a DaisyBell, Thursday, Jan. 17, 2019. No major avalanches were triggered. (Ben Hohenstatt | Juneau Empire)

A yellow helicopter buzzes around Mount Roberts with a piece of avalanche mitigation equipment known as a DaisyBell, Thursday, Jan. 17, 2019. No major avalanches were triggered. (Ben Hohenstatt | Juneau Empire)

More in News

Folks at the Alaska State Capitol openly admit to plenty of fish tales, but to a large degree in ways intended to benefit residents and sometimes even the fish. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)
The bizarre bills other state legislatures are considering

Alaska’s Legislature isn’t mulling the headline-grabbers some statehouses have in the works.

This photo shows snow-covered hills in the Porcupine River Tundra in the Yukon Territories, Canada. In July 1997, a hunter contacted troopers in Fairbanks, Alaska, and reported finding a human skull along the Porcupine River, around 8 miles (13 kilometers) from the Canadian border. Investigators used genetic genealogy to help identify the remains as those of Gary Frank Sotherden, according to a statement Thursday, Feb. 2, 2023, from Alaska State Troopers. (AP Photo / Rick Bowmer)
Skull found in ‘97 in Interior belongs to New York man

A skull found in a remote part of Alaska’s Interior in 1997… Continue reading

(Michael Penn / Juneau Empire File)
Police calls for Saturday, Feb. 4, 2023

This report contains information from law enforcement and public safety agencies.

Officer William Hicks stands with JPD Chief Ed Mercer and Deputy Chief David Campbell during a swearing in ceremony for Hicks on Thursday at the JPD station in Lemon Creek. (Jonson Kuhn / Juneau Empire)
New officer joins JPD’s ranks

The Juneau Police Department welcomed a new officer to its ranks Thursday… Continue reading

These photos show Nova, a 3-year-old golden retriever, and the illegally placed body hold trap, commonly referred to as a Conibear trap, that caught her while walking near Outer Point Trail last week. (Courtesy / Jessica Davis)
Dog narrowly survives rare illegally placed trap in Juneau

State wildlife officials outlined what to do if found in similar situation

Gavel (Courtesy photo)
Public defender agency to refuse some cases, citing staffing

ANCHORAGE — A state agency that represents Alaskans who cannot afford their… Continue reading

(Michael Penn / Juneau Empire File)
Police: Gift card scam connected to hoax Fred Meyer threats

This article has been moved in front of the Empire’s paywall. A… Continue reading

This is a concept design drawing that was included in the request for proposal sent out by the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities seeking outside engineering and design services to determine whether it’s feasible to build a new ferry terminal facility in Juneau at Cascade Point. (Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities)
DOT takes steps toward potential Cascade Point ferry terminal facility

It would accommodate the Tazlina and or Hubbard, shorten trips to Haines and Skagway

(Michael Penn / Juneau Empire File)
Police calls for Friday, Feb. 3, 2023

This report contains information from law enforcement and public safety agencies.

Most Read