Emergency Maintenance Under a Bridge, At Night, in a Pandemic

On April 12, 2020, strong storms rolled through the Charleston, South Carolina area with wind gusts around 40 miles per hour. The next day, Lynker, working with NOAA’s Center for Operational Oceanographic Products and Services, was notified that the battery voltage of the NOAA air gap sensor under the Ravenel bridge was dropping and not renewing during the day. The sensor measures the distance between low steel obstructions to the water surface to ensure safe ship clearance under the bridge.

The sensor is strictly solar powered. It was clear an emergency maintenance trip to replace the solar panels was needed. Planning a repair during a pandemic required more time and coordination.  The team developed a more robust way to anchor the solar panels to the sensor.

Even under non-pandemic circumstances, to work on the Ravenel Bridge requires completely closing the road lane next to the station. The city doesn’t allow lane closures until after 9:00PM EST to minimize city impacts. The team put together the new solar tower during the day and worked through the night installing the tower, replacing old equipment, rerunning cables, and adding new antennas for a variety of satellite connections.

Thanks to our amazing staff, the Ravenel Bridge sensor is back and better than before.