Webcams monitor traffic, weather and views | SierraSun.com

Webcams monitor traffic, weather and views

Kara Fox
Sierra Sun
Emma Garrard/ Sierra SunA web cam overlooks the pier and Lake at Gar Woods Grill and Pier in Carnelian Bay. The camera shown on their Web site www.garwoods.com.
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At any given time of the day, anyone in the world can see if traffic is backed up on Interstate 80 in Truckee or at the Tahoe City wye. They can also check to see what the conditions are at local ski resorts and on Lake Tahoe ” all made possible by Web-based cameras.

Webcams, as they are commonly called, are located at crucial road intersections and in scenic places around the region. They can be accessed via the Internet 24 hours a day, many of them streaming live.

“I look at them half out of curiosity. It is a huge tool for tourism,” said Eric Brandt, who operates several local Web-based cameras. “If you are sitting in a cubicle in town X, you can get a mini escape by looking at a Webcam.”

Steve Teshara, executive director of the North Lake Tahoe Resort Association, agreed Webcams can be used for tourism and are good tools for visitors who can see what the conditions are like at each ski resort.

“There is a lot of value in people seeing for themselves what the snow conditions are and weather is,” Teshara said.

Savannah Cowley, spokeswoman for Squaw Valley Ski Corp., said the ski resort has three Web cams ” one that can scan around the resort at High Camp and two regular cams at the base of the mountain.

“With Squaw, I feel that people feel there is a sense of ownership,” Cowley said. “By checking out the Webcam, it is a way to nurture that relationship.”

Brandt said people use his webcams to see if it is windy or calm on the lake. But it is the Tahoe City wye traffic cam that is the most popular cam on his Web site, http://www.tahoetopia.com.

“We put them in places where we think there is a compelling reason for knowing what is going on at an intersection,” Brandt said.

Internet cams are increasingly used by Caltrans to monitor spots that have heavy traffic. Caltrans operates nine traffic cams in Lake Tahoe and Truckee, costing $60,000 a piece, according to Caltrans spokesman Mark Dinger.

“It’s a tool we use for monitoring traffic,” Dinger said. “People are under the impression we’re taping everything ” we’re not.”

Dinger said all Caltrans webcams are closed-circuit cameras and are live. A team of traffic operators monitor all the cams at a traffic monitor center in Rancho Cordova.

Although the California Highway Patrol shares the cams with Caltrans, by law the cameras are not used for law enforcement purposes, Dinger said.

If a traffic situation arises, the dispatchers would immediately know what the problem was and what action to take, Dinger said.

“Nothing beats seeing it for yourself,” Dinger said.