DOT installing 'avalanche cams' on Thane Road

Monitoring devices to be ready for winter, available for public viewing
Linemen from AEL&P, Terry Korthuis, left, and Travis Mill, work Tuesday to supply power to new web cameras that will monitor avalanche activity on Thane Road. The project is funded by the Department of Transportation and Public Facilities.

Although there hasn’t been an avalanche fatality on Thane Road since the 1970s, the Alaska Department of Transportation doesn’t want to take any risks. The department is currently installing “avalanche cams,” web cameras that will be trained on historically active avalanche chutes adjacent to Thane Road.

The cameras will be ready to go by the time winter hits, DOT Southeast Regional Director Al Clough said.

The department will use the cameras to make sure nobody is caught in snow slides that occur annually next to and, sometimes, over the road, DOT Regional Maintenance Superintendent Greg Patz said.

“If there is an avalanche, we can go back and review the video directly before and see if any cars or pedestrians went in the avalanche zone and didn’t come out,” he said.

The tool will also be useful to evaluate from afar what kind of equipment, and how much, needs to be sent to an avalanche site for cleanup, Patz said.

In total, there will be four cameras installed, one at each end of two slide sites, Clough said. One camera’s feed will be available for public viewing on 511.alaska.gov, DOT spokesman Jeremy Woodrow said. Along with a live video feed, the temperature, dew point and humidity of the location will also be available, he said.

DOT has been developing the camera project and securing its funding for about two years, Clough said. The cameras and their installation cost $650,000. Crews are working to install the cameras now.

Next year, the DOT will install railroad crossing-style gates on Thane Road to block traffic during “avalanche danger,” Clough said.

“Right now the only way we have to close (the road) is to park equipment across it,” he said. “The gates will make a very positive closure.”

• Contact reporter Katie Moritz at 523-2294 or at katherine.moritz@juneauempire.com.

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