Why Some BC Highway Webcams Can Go Down in Winter

Transmission Delayed

You love BC Highway Cams and so do we.

Our network of more than 925 webcam views of BC highways works exceptionally well to keep you in the know before you go. We monitor our systems around the clock to make sure they are working to provide you with a current snapshot of highway conditions across the province. But, like most complex systems, it can sometimes run into technical difficulties. For instance, when Old Man Winter makes his appearance across the province in the fall, we know that it’s time to make the shift into winter. Did you know that some of our BC Highway Cams have to make the shift into winter too? It’s true.

Many of our cams are close to cell service, making it easy for them to transmit data in all kinds of weather; however, some of our more remote cams don’t have cell service close by and rely on satellite or radio communications to send their images to the BC Highway Cams site. Unfortunately, when winter first rears its head, some of those satellite and radio cams can go down.

We spoke to our webcam guy and he explained why:

“The Fall-Winter and Winter-Spring seasonal transitions are the worst for the satellite systems. The wet snow freezes on the dish and transceiver and causes havoc. Also, low thick clouds full of snow attenuate the signal. Once it gets a little colder, it should be more consistent.”

This is what happened with on Hwy 3 on the Bombi Pass cam (seen above). When we arrived at the site we found the transceiver covered in ice. Once cleared, the cam was back in business.

Here’s a quick list of BC HighwayCams which use satellite to transmit images:


What Does Transmission Delayed Mean?

Sometimes, nasty weather won’t knock a camera out of action but might delay the transmission of our camera images.

If a camera missed the last image update, the black time stamp bar at the bottom of the image will become red. If the camera can’t transmit an image after an hour, our system will replace the image with a faded version of the most recent image with the text “Transmission Delayed” displayed on top. At this point, a technician is alerted and if the camera has not been fixed within 24 hours it will be temporarily turned off and replaced with an “image temporarily unavailable” message to prevent misinformation. If you see the “Transmission Delayed” message displayed, check DriveBC for current road condition information for the area.

Why is the Image Temporarily Unavailable?

If you see an “image temporarily unavailable” message on our cams, our technicians are aware of the issue and doing everything they can to get this camera back in action.

We can often fix the issue by trouble-shooting remotely, but sometimes a site visit is required. On occasion, the power or the telecom providers’ system has been interrupted and we have to wait for service to be restored. Regardless of the details, we work to maintain and repair cameras as quickly as possible. Turnaround time can be quicker in urban areas where power and communications are consistent, and access is easier. It can take longer in remote areas where access is challenging, and communications and power connections can be inconsistent.

Many highway cameras are in remote areas, making them difficult to access in extremely bad weather conditions. Our camera technicians do their best to keep them running and are very aware of the importance of the cameras to the travelling public, however they are subject to the same road delays you experience during bad weather. We appreciate your patience and understanding if there is a delay in restoring camera views. 

How do we choose webcam locations?

There are five main factors we consider when deciding where to plant a new eye in the sky.

  • High Use Routes
  • Areas Prone to Extreme or Unpredictable Weather
  • Areas with Gaps in Coverage
  • Areas Prone to Congestion
  • Feedback from Public & Stakeholders

All sites must meet the following criteria:

  • power to run the camera
  • landline, cell provider or satellite communications available
  • location accessible for maintenance
  • reasonable costs of installation and maintenance
  • technical requirements

Now you know. Do you have any other questions? Let us know in the comments below.

Snow and cams
Crescent Spur Cam

This article was first published on  Nov 27, 2014. It has been updated to provide you with more in depth information on our highway camera system.

33 comments on “Why Some BC Highway Webcams Can Go Down in Winter”

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  1. Pretty much every time there is a snow storm 99% of the Vancouver Island cams show “Transmission Delayed” messages. Many of those cams are in populated areas where cell service is not an issue. I believe the majority of drivers depend on these cams when the weather is bad but they only seem to work well when the weather is good. Perhaps these are just a colossal waste of money?

    Reply
    • Hi Rob,

      Thanks for your comment. This is something we continue to work on with our server support team – as it does appear that recently the increased load on the backend systems temporarily overloads things – resulting in a transmission delayed notice. We are working to improve the reliability of the public display of the camera.
      and understand your frustration. We hope to have it figured out soon and appreciate you taking the time to connect with us here to let us know your concerns.

      Reply
  2. Thank you for doing your best to keep the cameras up and running. With the amount of time I’ve spent in the backwoods of BC I can appreciate having the technology. I am also not so old but old enough to remember when there were no cameras. Oddly enough I like many others made do. Also not employed or associated with the Ministry of Transportation.

    Reply
    • Thanks for your comment, Kevin. Yes, although the cameras are a wonderful addition to the tool box, they are only part of the “picture” – with being prepared for anything when you are driving being the number 1 tool. 🙂

      Reply
  3. I understand your cams being down at times but this morning (at around 9 am) nearly all of your cameras on Vancouver Island are displaying the “transmission delayed” message. What’s the problem?

    Reply
    • Hi Barrie – thanks for connecting with us here. We sent your question to our webcam team and they let us know that there was an incident on Sunday morning where all BC HwyCams showed a red bar (last image update missed) and then a Transmission Delayed watermark. This occurred approximately between 8:00 – 9:30 AM on Sunday, January 24, 2021. We’re still gathering information on the cause, but we suspect it was a server issue. No other services, such as DriveBC, were affected –just cameras. Hope that this is helpful!

      Reply
    • Hello Wayne,

      Sorry to hear your frustration.

      Unfortunately, the DriveBC site was plagued this weekend (and throughout the day yesterday) with connectivity issues.

      We are aware of the problem and are working to resolve it as quickly as possible.

      Thank you for your patience.

      Reply
  4. cams on hwy 28 on Vancouver Island almost never work. The one closest to Campbell River is down 99% of the time. Our weather is not THAT bad. What is the issue there and how can we fix it?

    Reply
    • Hi Suzanne,

      Thanks for sharing your concern. The Crest Lake can experience outages from time to time because of challenges around connectivity and available power. There is no available cellular network to connect to so we rely on satellite communications. Satellites are prone to signal attenuation when there is lot of precipitation and low cloud cover. Solar provides the camera system with power to energize the system – the batteries can go without a charge from the panels for several weeks, so generally the system can recharge enough to get us through the winter season. However, as I mentioned, this particular system will experience temporary outages from time to time when the signal can’t make it to the satellite or the batteries aren’t recharged enough. Until telecoms extend their reach, we are unfortunately reliant on this tenuous connectivity; likewise, until electrical power providers expand to this location, we have to make do.

      In regards to the Gold River BCHighwayCam: this camera has been repeatedly vandalized, with the loss of critical system components. We have been working on developing a more secure system that will hopefully discourage the repeated efforts of the vandals.

      Reply
      • So you want us to believe that cloud cover is responsible for the inability to communicate with the satellite? That’s pretty rich!……considering that satellite radio, satellite television and satellite internet work just fine in these conditions. The clouds over Crest Lake must be composed of lead or something then! Even still, my satellite radio works fine there.
        And are you trying to convince us that a person or persons are continually going out to Crest Lake to sabatoge that camera? Just that one camera? (because being in a remote community, we have nothing better to do). Hmmmm! I find that unbelievable. Why would anyone continually vandalize that particular camera? And if that was actually true then why would there not be something like a wildlife camera hidden and trained at the equipment in question?
        The most likely explanation would be that our safety is considered just not important enough to rectify this issue…………considering that this camera is down for months on end.

        Reply
        • Thanks Robert, for your comments about outages with the Crest Lake webcam.

          Safety is our highest priority and we maintain more than 400 webcams which provide more than 800 views of BC highways.

          The Crest Lake cam is one that has outages occasionally, because of challenges around connectivity and available power. With no available cellular network to connect to, it relies on satellite communications. Satellites are prone to signal attenuation when there is a lot of precipitation and low cloud cover. In addition, solar power energizes the system – the batteries can go without a charge from the panels for several weeks,

          So, this system will experience temporary outages from time to time, when the signal can’t make it to the satellite, or the batteries aren’t recharged enough. Until telecoms or electrical power providers extend their reach, this is the situation.

          In the past, the Crest Lake camera has been repeatedly vandalized, and we are working on a more secure system to withstand vandalism.

          Reply
  5. Where are the Highway 97 cameras north of Spallumcheen?{sp} particularly the Salmon Arm/Vernon intersection. Lots of electricity there.

    Reply
  6. RE: Pine Pass Camera

    This has gone on long enough. Weather is no longer an issue. Devote your resources to getting this operational. The time frame is already unacceptable.

    Reply
    • Hi Jim,

      Ministry radio tech team members, along with a ministry’s Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) Electrical team member and WestCana, the electrical contractor, are currently converging on the camera location to install a new system.

      The system was rebuilt from the ground up with a new camera, road side box and controller , new modem and radio links.

      The delay has been in sourcing the necessary replacement equipment and configuring it; we want to ensure we have a robust and reliable system in place.

      Hope that this helps!

      Reply
      • Any update on the Pine Pass camera? An actual date/ timeline/ something concrete, more than a “we’re working on it”? This camera went down in the summer and I’m disappointed it hasn’t been fixed, regardless of it’s remoteness.

        Reply
        • Hi Caity,

          We sent your question to the webcam guy who informed us that this is a complicated camera system because it uses a radio system to communicate with a mountain top radio repeater which then connects to the cellular network and then to our servers. There was a failure with some equipment at the repeater site, which, once replaced, caused some configuration issues with the older equipment at the camera location.
          Since the camera went out of service we performed a number of site visits to not only to the camera location, but to the repeater station.
          We established that the camera system required a rebuild from end to end. Configuration and testing was complete last week and yesterday the radio and electronics folks visited the site and installed part of the new system at the road side. Next week the electrical contractor hopes to visit the site and install the new camera. Thank you for your continued patience!

          Reply
          • Two words; Lowest Bidder.
            What do we expect from the public sector? If this was a private installation it would have been fixed over night. Good thing the holiday season is coming up and most of those “folks” will be on vacation.
            You won’t garner sympathy by using phrases like “complicated camera system” and “configuration and testing”. Our community relies on this kind of technology already. We know it doesn’t take an astrophysicist to install it.

          • Hi Mr. Lahey,

            We are sorry to hear your frustration about the cam issues. Unfortunately it takes time to diagnose the issue, to source parts if necessary and to get out crew to the site in order to make the repair. We understand how important these cams are to the local communities they serve and appreciate your patience while we work as hard as we can to get them back up and running.

  7. Thank you for the detailed response, it certainly is rugged terrain and given the logistics of getting the signal out to the network it can be a lengthy process.
    As you are well aware, many of the road users (And recreational users of the area) utilize this particular highway camera to plan their trip. I know that we have often ‘checked in’ prior to heading North from PG or South from the Peace area.
    I am also certain that the Ministry is all to aware of the requirement of a higher priority that is required in having access to this type of information regarding a mountain pass that receives the high amount of snowfall that the Pine Pass does.

    As always, endure to do your best and not leave the good people of the North wanting for too much longer.

    Reply
    • Hi Colin,

      Yes, we do appreciate the local community reliance on the cam and we LOVE that you check in with it before you go. We hope to have it up and running as soon as possible. Thanks again for your continued patience!

      Reply
    • Hi Susan,

      Thanks for connecting with us here. We are aware of the issue with the Pine Pass cam. Pine Pass is one of the few cameras the ministry uses which does not have a reliable cell phone or landline connection. We’re using a spread spectrum modem to connect with one of the ministry’s mountain top radio repeaters, which then relays the signal to another repeater site near Mackenzie, which then connects to the cell network and finally to our servers.

      We’ve identified the issue with the modem located at the repeater station near Mackenzie.
      Our radio electronic team has been attempting to access the site over the last few weeks— but because it means a helicopter ride to the mountain top station, we’re very much influenced by weather conditions at the site. Our team visited the site earlier this week and replaced a number of components, which in the process revealed other issues that are affecting the camera communications.

      We have determined that a complete end-to-end rebuild of the system is required. We are currently gathering the necessary components (camera, pole cabinet, spread spectrum radios and cell modem), which will be deployed once they are configured and tested. Unfortunately we don’t have a hard and fast time frame for this, but please be assured we know the importance of this camera and are committed to ensuring full restoration of service.

      Hope that this helps.

      Reply
  8. Pine Pass has been down for weeks and we had been having spring weather until this week! November 17, 2016. When is it going to be working!!!
    Pine Pass Camera
    Hwy 97, north of Mackenzie Junction at Powder King access road, looking north. (elevation: 914 metres)

    Reply
      • “as soon as possible” How long is that? The Pine pass web cam has been not working for a long time now. When is it going to be fixed? It should be on someones “to do list” and fixed pronto. Why does it take so long to fix such things? You people are aware that it is down but just forget on a daily basis?

        Reply
        • Hi Clayton,

          Thanks for connecting with us here. We are aware of the issue with the Pine Pass cam. Pine Pass is one of the few cameras the ministry uses which does not have a reliable cell phone or landline connection. We’re using a spread spectrum modem to connect with one of the ministry’s mountain top radio repeaters, which then relays the signal to another repeater site near Mackenzie, which then connects to the cell network and finally to our servers.

          We’ve identified the issue with the modem located at the repeater station near Mackenzie.
          Our radio electronic team has been attempting to access the site over the last few weeks— but because it means a helicopter ride to the mountain top station, we’re very much influenced by weather conditions at the site. Our team visited the site earlier this week and replaced a number of components, which in the process revealed other issues that are affecting the camera communications.

          We have determined that a complete end-to-end rebuild of the system is required. We are currently gathering the necessary components (camera, pole cabinet, spread spectrum radios and cell modem), which will be deployed once they are configured and tested. Unfortunately we don’t have a hard and fast time frame for this, but please be assured we know the importance of this camera and are committed to ensuring full restoration of service.

          Hope that this helps.

          Reply
        • Thanks for connecting with us here. We are aware of the issue with the Pine Pass cam. Pine Pass is one of the few cameras the ministry uses which does not have a reliable cell phone or landline connection. We’re using a spread spectrum modem to connect with one of the ministry’s mountain top radio repeaters, which then relays the signal to another repeater site near Mackenzie, which then connects to the cell network and finally to our servers.

          We’ve identified the issue with the modem located at the repeater station near Mackenzie.
          Our radio electronic team has been attempting to access the site over the last few weeks— but because it means a helicopter ride to the mountain top station, we’re very much influenced by weather conditions at the site. Our team visited the site earlier this week and replaced a number of components, which in the process revealed other issues that are affecting the camera communications.

          We have determined that a complete end-to-end rebuild of the system is required. We are currently gathering the necessary components (camera, pole cabinet, spread spectrum radios and cell modem), which will be deployed once they are configured and tested. Unfortunately we don’t have a hard and fast time frame for this, but please be assured we know the importance of this camera and are committed to ensuring full restoration of service.

          Hope that this helps.

          Reply