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

Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation elected chief councillor Moses Martin, who was also Chantel Moore’s grandfather, speaks to media in Port Alberni on Aug. 16, 2020, during a visit from NDP leader Jagmeet Singh following the police shooting of Chantel Moore. (Elena Rardon photo)
Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation Chief says community “devastated” by third police shooting

Woman shot by Ucluelet RCMP in the Ucluelet First Nation community of Hitacu on May 8.

Tofino is adding to its planning department to keep up with rising interest in residential development in town. (Westerly file photo)
Interest in residential development rising in Tofino

District of Tofino boosting planning department.

The Independent Investigations Office of B.C. is investigating the shooting of an Indigenous woman in the Ucluelet First Nation community of Hitacu. (Black Press Media file photo)
NTC president calls for ‘massive change’ after Indigenous woman shot by police in Hitacu

“We need to get to the root of what is actually happening with the RCMP and our communities”

Hotel Zed Tofino has won a Vancouver Island Real Estate Board Commercial Building Award. (Westerly file photo)
Hotel Zed Tofino wins commercial building award

Vancouver Island Real Estate Board holds virtual gala.

A bullet hole is seen in the windshield of an RCMP vehicle approximately 4 km from Vancouver International Airport after a one person was killed during a shooting outside the international departures terminal at the airport, in Richmond, B.C., Sunday, May 9, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Homicide team IDs man in fatal YVR shooting as police grapple with spate of gang violence

Man, 20, charged in separate fatal shooting Burnaby over the weekend

Keith MacIntyre - BC Libertarian
Penticton’s Keith MacIntyre new leader of the B.C. Libertarian Party

The Penticton businessman was voted in by members of the party on May 8

RCMP are searching for Philip Toner, who is a 'person of interest' in the investigation of a suspicious death in Kootenay National Park last week. Photo courtesy BC RCMP.
Man sought in suspicious Kootenay death found in Lake Country

Philip Toner is a person of interest in the death of Brenda Ware

Vernon North Okanagan RCMP reported to 287 mental health calls between Jan. 1, 2021, and May 1. (Black Press files)
‘It’s not the police’s responsibility to deal with mental health calls’: Vernon RCMP

RCMP remind public to take care of mental health and well-being, while better solutions are sought

Thompson Rivers University campus is in Kamloops, B.C. (KTW file photo)
Thompson Rivers the 1st B.C. university to supply free menstrual products

The university will offer the products this September

Fraser Health is using ‘targeted’ vaccination clinics in high-risk areas of the Lower Mainland. (Fraser Health photo)
B.C.’s COVID-19 decrease continues, 515 new cases Tuesday

426 seriously ill people in hospital, up from 415 Monday

A scene from the Schoolhouse Squat from October 2018, where Alliance Against Displacement members and supporters occupied the Rutherford Elementary School site, advocating for people experiencing homelessness. (News Bulletin file)
‘Schoolhouse Squat’ activists get conditional discharge in Nanaimo school occupation

Ivan Donald Drury, Tingchun (Listen) Chen sentenced in provincial court in Nanaimo

The site of Sunfest, Laketown Ranch, will be open for camping this summer. (Citizen file)
Sunfest country music bash won’t be shining on B.C. in 2021

Annual Vancouver Island Festival cancelled due to COVID-19, along with Laketown Shakedown

B.C. Agriculture Minister Lana Popham promotes the government’s BuyBC food program in 2019. (B.C. government)
Money running out for fresh fruit, vegetables, milk in B.C. schools

‘Looking at ways to support this type of program,’ minister says

Most Read