Road, weather information available by cell phone

Road, weather information available by cell phone Travelers in the Dakotas can get up-to-date, location-specific weather information in their cars, thanks to the joint efforts of the South Dakota Department of Transportation, the North Dakota Department of Transportation, the University of North Dakota, the Federal Highway Administration, and the cellular phone industry.

The Advanced Traveler Weather Information System uses extensive weather data and supercomputer technology to make precise weather reports and forecasts on major travel routes in the Dakotas. Travelers with cellular phones can access the information by dialing #7233. The "#" key must be dialed before the four digit number, which in letters spells "SAFE."

When created in November 1996, ATWIS provided information for interstate highways and a few other highways in the Dakotas. Coverage expanded in November 1997, and again Nov. 1, 1998, to provide coverage on the state's most heavily traveled highways:

* Interstate 90 through South Dakota

* Interstate 29 throughout North and South Dakota

* US 2 throughout North Dakota

* US 12 throughout South Dakota

* US 14, from Wall, to the Minnesota state line

* US 18, from SD 79 near Hot Springs to SD 50 near Lake Andes

* US 52, from the Canadian border to US 281 north of Jamestown, ND

* US 81, from Yankton to Watertown

* US 85, from Spearfish to the Canadian border

* US 212, from the Wyoming state line to the Minnesota state line

* US 281, from US 14 near Huron to the Canadian border

* US 385, from the Nebraska state line to US 18 near Hot Springs

* SD 37, from SD 50 near Tyndall to US 14 at Huron

* SD 50 near Lake Andes, to Intestate 29 near Vermillion

* SD 79, from US 18 near Hot Springs to Interstate 90 at Rapid City

When a traveler places a call, the automated system asks him to key in his location by state, highway number and mileage marker. Mileage markers are posted at one-mile intervals along all of the highways. On interstate highways, exit numbers also match mileage markers and may be used instead. The system responds with a description of the road conditions, current weather and weather forecast for the vicinity of the call. If travelers wish, they can also request information about conditions at their destination, by similarly identifying its location. Phone calls take approximately two minutes. Nearly 100,000 calls have been placed since the system was created.

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