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Enormous Cascade de-icing challenge underway

Categories: Guest Connection Inside Meadows Weather Blog Tech Talk

UPDATE - Chairs have been loaded on the haul line to assist in the removal of ice on the towers. Warming temps and sunshine have made the towers unsafe to climb due to the tons of ice over hanging the ladder. Chairs have been launched on Cascade Express to provide weight for safe operation of a work chair from which lift maintenance can de-ice towers, assess damage and replace any burnt sheaves.

Cascade Express tower deicing at Mt. Hood MeadowsThere is an enormous amount of work to do in the challenging Cascade Express de-icing project. The good news is - the lift ran on night drive through the seven days of rain, ice and wind. This kept the haul line relatively clear, meaning less to deice. However, there is still tons (literally) of ice on the towers. Crews were de-icing Sunday afternoon and got one tower de-iced …13 to go. 

Not that regular de-icing, hanging off of a tower banging away at ice, often in high winds isn't dangerous enough - the current situation presents even more risks. Further work has been thwarted by warming, which causes water to run under the ice, making it too hazardous to try and remove. Keep in mind before our lift maintenance crew can release the ice from the tower, the ice encased ladder must first be ascended. This requires hammering the ice one rung at a time. And with so much overburden of precariously melted out ice, it is far too dangerous to attempt to climb. So while sunshine and melt may be a friend, it could also be our worst enemy in terms of accessing this very volatile condition.

Once lift maintenance team members can access a tower it can easily take over an hour to clear each one. Maintenance will be working on it today as conditions allow, but it’s not likely they will get it all done. Once the ice is clear there will still be burnt sheaves to change and tower switches to repair. Sheaves are those round pulleys on the tower that the haul line travels over. When the sheave ices up, the haul line starts burning into it. If it burns too far, a safety switch shuts off the night drive so the haul line doesn't continue to grind its way into the lift tower assembly.

Which brings up another point - each tower has fairly sensitive safety monitors and switches that can also become damaged in ice storms. Chipping hard ice from around this sensitive equipment is tedious and time consuming, but must be done with care in order to assure safe operations once the lift is started again. There is also a considerable safety check that occurs once a lift is brought back online after deicing. That's why you may see a lift running with chairs, but no passengers.

Nobody (and we mean that sincerely) wants this lift to get back into operation as much as we do. But we will approach this de-icing project with precision and intention, within the margin of safety. It's a huge project which needs to be approached with dogged determination and respect. We will open Cascade as soon as it is humanly possible.