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Spaceship-looking devices have important mission in Colorado's mountains

These egg-shaped devices will be used for avalanche mitigation near busy Colorado mountain highways.

SUMMIT COUNTY, Colo. — The egg-shaped devices lined in a row in the parking lot at the Eisenhower-Johnson Tunnels loom like spaceships getting ready for liftoff.

"Looks a little like the CDOT space force this side of the road," said Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) winter operations manager Jamie Yont.

While they look as if they’re positioned for a mission in outer space, the devices are used for a more useful purpose here on Earth.

"These are our Gazex exploders," said Yont. "We have them for avalanche control around the west side of the Eisenhower Tunnel."

Credit: 9News
Credit: 9News

The Gazex devices are flown by helicopter high up on mountain ridges. They are connected to towers where a mixture of compressed hydrogen and oxygen fill a chamber and can be remotely sparked to cause an explosion that triggers avalanches to keep roads safe.

"It’s a mixture of hydergine and oxygen and it fills a chamber that’s up on the tower and the explosion actually comes from the bottom of the spaceship or the egg looking unit here," said Yont.

Credit: 9News

CDOT has 16 of the units: 12 at the Eisenhower-Johnson Tunnels, two on Berthoud Pass and two on Wolf Creek Pass.

CDOT has been using the relatively new technology for a few years, putting them in place in November and then taking the exploders back down in May.

"It’s relatively new technology for North America," said Yont. "Certainly, new technology for Colorado we have had them for four or five winter seasons."

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