Cut Fiber Optic Cables Behind Massive Phone Outage

March 19, 2007
Reported By: KPLC Staff

Shortly after noon, those looking to reach out and touch someone were left hanging on the line. AT&T says the source of the problem is the result of two separate incidents: The first occurred at 9:18 a.m. when a power utility crew working in the Crowley/Rayne area cut a fiber optic cable. Normally that would not affect phone services, but a second fiber optic cable was cut in the same line in Leesville at 12:18 p.m. before the first crew could correct their mistake.

"It just so happened that they both happened at the same time. We lost all of our land lines and telephones, a lot of our cell phones and a lot of our Internet service," said Calcasieu Office of Emergency Preparedness Director Dick Gremillion. "That included 911 services. For a temporary time we had no way to take emergency calls. So we had somewhat of a crisis on our hands."

With the five parish area of: Calcasieu, Cameron Beauregard, Jeff Davis and Acadia in a phone service black out, emergency first responders took up a command post at the Calcasieu Office of Homeland Security. To execute their strategy, they had to revert back to the old fashioned ways.

"We went back to the old time fire watch days, where we had people go into the Hibernia Tower, Memorial Hospital, and L'auberge to do fire watch, the city was pretty well covered," said Lake Charles Fire Chief David Manuel.

To better respond to wrecks and emergencies, local and state law enforcement took up extra patrols on the streets. "In this particular case, 2-10 Bridge was partially blocked from an accident. We had communication problems, so we had to get the wreckers. Without a phone to call the wreckers, we had to send a trooper to a wrecker to get there," said State Police Troop D Commander Russell Haman.

Most phone services, including 9-1-1 were restored around 3 p.m. Gremillion says he is pleased at the response, and says should this happen again they will be better prepared.

"We'll take the things that we learned and the things that we already knew and see how we can improve on our plans the next time something like this happens," said Gremillion.

AT&T says most phone services were fully restored by 6 p.m. The phone company also tells 7 News cutting two fiber optic cables in the same ring is very rare. Both instances remain under investigation.