This road camera west of Edgemont, located just east of the South Dakota/Wyoming border on Hwy. 18, allows travelers the chance to see live road conditions. Road conditions may be checked electronically on your smartphone by downloading the SD DOT 511 app. (Photo by Savanna Simmons)
By Savanna Simmons
EDGEMONT -- With a winter that keeps stretching on endlessly, or so it feels, current road and weather conditions are key to travelers’ safety. The South Dakota Department of Transportation (DOT), and also neighboring states such as Nebraska and Wyoming, offer a 511 app informing the latest in weather data and a live-view of road conditions.
The app is most heavily used in winter, said Rich Zacher, the Custer area engineer, covering the southwestern part of the state including Custer, Fall River, Oglala Lakota, and part of Pennington counties. The bird’s eye view may also be found online at SafeTravelUSA.com, however, viewing online doesn’t offer current weather conditions as the free app does.
For solely acquiring weather conditions, you may call 511, but there again, you are missing half of the available information.
“Once you get familiar with the app, it is so much easier than calling or looking online,” Zacher said. “You can also save particular areas that you check often, and they will appear at the top.”
Within the last five years, the installation of cameras across the state has increased. The first initial cameras, in place by the 75th Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, were funded by grands, but the majority of the 87 cameras statewide were installed with a winter maintenance management system funded by the state of South Dakota.
Fall River County has a camera west of Edgemont, along the Wyoming state line, another at Maverick Junction, and one on 18 at the Oglala Lakota County line. Other cameras that may be useful to area travelers are one along Highway 79 at Fairburn, on Highway 385 in Pringle, and Nebraska’s cameras on Highway 385 at the state line, and on South Dakota 71 just south of Ardmore.
The cameras upload a new photo every minute offering the most current available information, and for the 69 cameras that offer weather, they also update the temperature and wind speed and direction.
Zacher advised app-users to please stay safe and not check conditions while driving, especially on wintery conditions when the app receives the most traffic. The main other use for the app, Zacher said, is to check road congestion during the rally.
“There are times we have to manually operate traffic lights in Keystone, so we can look at the camera and see if we need to send someone,” he said. “It’s a good use for us.”
Most of the states cameras are already installed, however the northwest corner of the state, where the radar is often inaccurate or unavailable, will receive some cameras to offer the DOT and travelers the most accurate conditions.