Before and after photos show the damage done to a radio receiver that was struck by lightning on Nov. 16. (Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure photos)

Before and after photos show the damage done to a radio receiver that was struck by lightning on Nov. 16. (Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure photos)

Tofino-Ucluelet highway camera remains down after lightning strike

“This one was apparently a direct hit and it pretty much just blew it to smithereens.”

The highway camera on Sutton Pass remained down on Tuesday afternoon, three weeks after a lightning strike obliterated the radio receiver it relies on to operate.

The ministry of transportation and infrastructure’s acting camera program manager Pete Taylor told the Westerly News lightning hits repeater sites throughout B.C. about three times a year, but the hit the Porter Mountain site received on Nov. 16 was significantly more powerful than is usually seen.

“They’re generally not this intense. Talking to the techs, this is the most violent destruction they’ve seen in 20 years. It was a pretty profound thing,” Taylor said. “This one was apparently a direct hit and it pretty much just blew it to smithereens.”

A technician team was able to access the site by helicopter on Dec. 2 and install a new repeater system, but the transmission did not immediately catch. Taylor said the crew planned to visit the site again, but the work is extremely weather dependent as the site can only be reached by helicopter.

“It is super precarious, there’s enough room for the helicopter to kind of land on a slope,” he said.

“Often it’s weeks of waiting for a break in the weather to get up there. It can be a little sketchy at times, so we really try to ensure safety…We don’t want to put people in harm’s way.”

He added that he appreciates people contacting him when a camera is down and he understands the frustrations felt by commuters unable to see the road ahead.

“Sometimes people get a little bit wound up about it and I totally understand because you want to see what’s going on on the highway, you want to know it’s safe, you don’t want to leave and get stuck in something,” he said.

The Sutton Pass camera was installed around 2011 and is the only one of its kind on Vancouver Island due to the absence of cell service in the area.

“It has no power, it has no cell service, so we use solar power and we use a radio to connect with this mountaintop radio repeater site, which then bumps the signal over to another repeater site that’s within cell range,” he said.

He added that the camera is important because Highway 4 conditions can be vastly different each half-kilometre.

“Places like Sutton Pass have, kind of, their own weird microclimate…It’s very important and not only for the public, but also for the road maintenance guys who have to do the snow clearing to see what’s going on. So, they went to some extraordinary lengths to actually make this happen,” he said.

“We don’t have great connectivity from Port Alberni out to the West Coast and that is a source of frustration, so we do have to go through some extraordinary lengths and unfortunately it does cause some reliability issues…The problem is, of course, that it’s a much more tenuous connection between the camera to the repeater site and onto the cell network. If anything breaks on that chain of communication, the camera stops working.”

The province’s camera program began about 15 years ago and started out as a way for highway crews to check road conditions at high elevation points throughout the province, like the Coquihala, Malahat and Sutton Pass, according to Taylor.

He said the camera crew quickly realized the program would benefit commuters as well, so the images began being published publicly and the program grew.

Taylor said about 30 cameras are added every year and as of October 2020 there were about 450 cameras throughout the province, including about 65 on Vancouver Island.

He said the program has been well received by motorists as well as commercial trucking companies, though specific data around how many views each camera gets is tough to calculate as the video feeds are streamed through several sites.

“Getting those metrics around it is pretty difficult,” he said

He added though that feedback storms in when the Sutton Pass camera goes down, proving residents rely on it.

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

READ MORE: Tofino, Ucluelet and Port Alberni call for emergency phones on Hwy. 4 after crash

READ MORE: Province says Wi-Fi “not feasible” for commuters stuck in Hwy. 4 construction closures

READ MORE: ‘Locks of Love’ fence near Tofino-Ucluelet consumed with litter

Provincial GovernmentTofino,Transportationucluelet

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Tofino will elect a new mayor and two new councillors on March 6. (Westerly file photo)
Tofino’s mayoralty candidates lay out key differences

Tofino will elect a new mayor and two new councillors on March 6.

FILE – A COVID-19 vaccine being prepared. (Olivia Sullivan/Sound Publishing)
B.C. seniors 80 years and older to get COVID vaccine details over next 2 weeks: Henry

Province is expanding vaccine workforce as officials ramp up age-based rollout

Clockwise from top right, chamber executive director Jen Dart moderated a Zoom-based forum last week where Tofino’s mayoralty candidates J.J. Belanger, Andrea McQuade and Dan Law made their pitch to lead their community. (Screenshot)
WATCH: Tofino mayoralty candidates face off at forum

Town to elect new mayor and two new councillors on March 6.

A man died in a house fire at the Ahousaht First Nation reserve on Feb. 17, 2021. (BP File Image)
House fire claims life of one man in Ahousaht

Investigation underway as tight-knit community mourns, foul play not suspected

Ucluelet locals Sophia Lounsbury and Charlotte Norman had a blast sliding through the snow at Tugwell Fields during Saturday’s rare winter wonderland on the West Coast. (Andrew Bailey photo)
POLL QUESTION: Did you enjoy the rare snowfall in Tofino-Ucluelet?

The West Coast transformed into a winter wonderland last weekend.

Dr. Bonnie Henry talk about the next steps in B.C.'s COVID-19 Immunization Plan during a press conference at Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Friday, January 22, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
456 new COVID-19 cases in B.C., 2 deaths

Since January 2020, 78,278 have tested positive for the novel coronavirus in B.C.

A health-care worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a UHN COVID-19 vaccine clinic in Toronto on Thursday, January 7, 2021. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette)
Vaccinating essential workers before seniors in B.C. could save lives: experts

A new study says the switch could also save up to $230 million in provincial health-care costs

The late Michael Gregory, 57, is accused of sexually exploiting six junior high students between 1999 and 2005. (Pixabay)
Former Alberta teacher accused of sexually assaulting students found dead in B.C.

Mounties say Michael Gregory’s death has been deemed ‘non-suspicious’

According to a new poll, a majority of Canadians want to see illicit drugs decriminalized. (THE ASSOCIATED PRESS)
Majority of Canadians think it’s high time to decriminalize illicit drugs: poll

More than two-times the B.C. residents know someone who died from an overdose compared to rest of Canada

VIDEO: Lynx grabs lunch in Kamloops

A lynx surprises a group of ducks and picks one off for lunch

(Black Press Media file photo)
B.C. residents can reserve provincial camp sites starting March 8

B.C. residents get priority access to camping reservations in province

Two women were arrested in Nanaimo for refusing to wear masks and causing disturbance on a BC Ferries vessel. (File photo)
B.C. ferry passengers arrested and fined for disturbance, refusing to wear masks

Police said woman threatened their pensions in Feb. 21 incident aboard Nanaimo-bound boat

When his owner had knee surgery, Kevin, 2, was able to continue to go for walks thanks to volunteers from Elder Dog Canada. (Contributed photo)
B.C. woman has nothing but praise for Elder Dog Canada

National organization has a fleet of volunteer walkers ready, but needs more clients to serve

Most Read