By Rachel Petersen and Jeanne LeFlore
At around 10:45 on Thursday, people in the McAlester area experienced wireless outages. Cell phones and wireless Internet devices stopped working. Most people received error messages saying there was no network service.
According to McAlester Police Department Interim chief Gary Wansick, a fiber optic cable line had been severed somewhere between Eufaula and Muskogee. The damaged cable is owned by AT&T, Wansick said Thursday at 2:15 p.m., and the company has service representatives out trying to remedy the issue.
Canadian Valley Phone Company Supervisor Gary Brooks said most fiber optic cables are buried 40 inches to 10-feet deep. He said he was notified about the outage before noon. He also said AT&T has radar that can locate the exact location of the break.
Meanwhile Wansick said McAlester, most of Pittsburg County and part of McIntosh County have been affected by the outage.
“Dispatch had to do a manual switch to re-route 911 calls to the MPD regular seven-digit line,” Wansick said. What this means is MPD is still receiving 911 calls, but without the typical wireless technology that regularly accompanies each call — such as caller location. “We are trying to verify throughout the county that the 911 system is operational county-wide,” the interim chief said.
At around 3:30 p.m. Thursday, Emergency Management Assistant Director Hillary Steele said technicians had located the problem and expected a minimum of 3 to 4 hours to get the issue resolved. In the meantime, Steele said the 911 system is only working from land-lines. And even then, the only land-lines capable of connecting through the 911 system are McAlester-based land-lines.
“The sheriff’s department has placed units at Sinclair No. 9, Arpelar Store, Lakeside Grocery in Crowder and Savanna School until the issue is resolved,” Steele said. If anyone has an emergency and can’t dial 911, they can go to one of these locations or to any of the four McAlester Fire Department locations in McAlester: 2700 block of North Main Street, South Strong Boulevard, McAlester City Hall and 607 Village Blvd.
The Pittsburg County Sheriff’s Office, MPD, the McAlester /Pittsburg County Office of Emergency Management and some local volunteer fire departments are working together to help remedy any problems that arise due to the outage, Wansick said.
When this article was prepared for publication, the outage had not been fixed.
Contact Rachel Petersen at email@example.com. Contact Jeanne LeFlore at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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