Could a Laser Beam Cut Through a Severe Winter Storm?

I live in Nunavut where we have some severe winter storms.
My work is located about 200 feet from the staff housing complex, and there are times the blizzards are so severe, we can’t even the staff residence.

Our biggest fear is someone attempting the walk home, getting lost and disorientated, and freezing to death before they can find their way home.

One of my colleagues joked about placing a rope between work and the staff residence but this wouldn’t work because it would have to cross 2 roads.

Are there any laser beams that we could install on the workplace, point it to the staff building and then we could just follow the laser home?

Is this a crazy idea?


The laser beam is going to get stopped by the snow, even if it didn’t it creates such a narrow path that the person would have to look almost directly into it to find it.

ISTM your best bet is to just keep the path shoveled/plowed during the storm or when the snow is that bad just hold people back until it lets up enough that you can see.

Some sort of strobe light? I don’t know this company but they might have some ideas.

I think strobes (just because they’re white) might be heard to see in a snow storm. My thoughts WRT to lighting would be to light the entrances of both buildings with high pressure sodium lights (which are yellow). Lots of lights, bright lights, maybe all the way down to the street. Let’s say the buildings are both set back 25 feet, you suddenly cut that 200 feet down to 150 feet and maybe by the time you can’t see the lights from one building the lights from the other one come into view.

Of course, I get the feeling the OP is trying to do this on his own and the building management isn’t interested in shelling out a couple thousand dollars so that a handful of people can get from one building to the other a little easier the few times a year there’s white out conditions that last an hour or two.

If you really want to use string or rope, you can just do it up to the cross roads and then start it again on the next block and all the person has to do is be able to cross the street.

The school buses in this area(thick winter fog) use white rooftop strobes and they’re very visible.

I say - try it.

Get yourself an inexpensive green 5mW laser from ebay (like this) and see how visible it is during a blizzard.
My guess is that it works pretty well - even if the beam doesn’t make it all the way between the two buildings, it might get you close enough to see the lights of the building.

ETA - even a 5mW laser is BRIGHT if you look directly at it! It might not cause immediate eye damage, but it’s a really good idea not to aim it in such a way as to allow people to gaze into the beam. Use standard laser safety precautions.

you can get colored globes to fit over strobe or any other type light.

Even if the lasers are visible, you’d want them on so much that I suspect the power expenses would be prohibitive.

My suggestion is the rope idea. Is the visibility so bad that you can’t even see the second rope across the street?

Sounds like you should petition management to installa zip line.

Either run the rope across the road and raise it back up with a post for finding it, just end it on a post on either side of the road. Cars rolling over your rope won’t hurt it.

If you can’t see across a 20 foot gap, light each post with a strobe.

Sounds like you need a tunnel.

Oh yeah. You PROBABLY won’t damage your eye if you get a QUICK glance. But after you do it you certainly will wonder if you JUST did. You’ll put your eye out kid!

The worst part about this idea is, as some else mentioned, is the beam is tiny, because that’s the nature of a laser. If it isn’t hitting your 5mm pupil of your eye you won’t see it. Can you walk and keep your eye to with a few mm of being in a straight line when you do? Now, I suppose you might see it if its doing a lot of scattering off of all the snow. Or you could use a lens to spread it out so the beam is several feet wide and as long as you stay in that your fine.

But, in that case, its only a measly 5 milliwatts. That’s .005 watts. You know what’s (heh) 20,000 times more powerful? A 100 watt light bulb.

If you want a light that might work, get some of those fairly narrowly focused halogen track type lights at the hardware store and aim them in the right directions. That and ropes to the roads would probably work.


Ok - this has me confused. I’ve been to lots of laser light shows, and I’m pretty sure that my eye wasn’t within 5 mm of the beam.

I’d have to think that the snow would provide enough scattering that you wouldn’t have trouble staying with the beam. Actually, in the blizzard conditions being described, I’d worry about so much scattering that the beam wouldn’t get to the other end.

Yes, but those laser light shows aren’t using 5 milliwatt lasers. Unless you are talking about them painting an image on a solid surface which is whole different story.

And you are right about worrying about TOO much scattering. Which is why a very narrow beam of only 5 milliwatts might not work. Between a tiny amount of energy being scattered all over the place combined with the fact that at any given moment a large snow flake can totally block the beam you’ve got issues.

How many staff are there? One possibility is to buy several cheap (~$100 each) handheld GPS units with preprogrammed waypoints. Fill them with lithium batteries and they will last a very long time between uses.

The first snowplow to come along will take it out.

That’s perfect, you could totally shine a laser through a tunnel without snow getting in the way.

If it’s up in Nunavut it’s probably too close to the magnetic pole for a compass to work well.

Maybe some sort of catapult / trampoline combination could be made to work.