McAlester News-Capital, McAlester, OK

July 13, 2013

Authorities determine cause of wireless outage

By Jeanne LeFlore
Staff Writer

McALESTER — Thousands of people were affected by an cellular outage Thursday that originated from a McAlester chemical plant.

Thursday.s outage was caused by a soil testing contractor at Tony.s Gas and Chemical House on Washington Avenue, according to Trent Meyers, director of Pittsburg County Emergency Management.

Thousands of people were without telephone, cellphone or Internet access yesterday for hours after a contractor working at Tony.s Gas and Chemical House  cut into a fiber optic wire while testing soil, according to a man who answered the phone Friday at Tony.s Gas and Chemical House. The man, who said his name was Bob and declined to give his last name, said the accident happened because the area was not properly marked by AT&T.

The man said a contractor was testing the soil for chemicals around the chemical plant when the line was cut and that the ground was not properly marked when a fiber-optic cable was installed.

The outage affected customers in Latimer, Pittsburg and McIntosh counties. Outages included 911 service for many areas.

Sheriff Joel Kerns said he had deputies on patrol throughout the county for those without access to the 911 emergency line.

“We had no major emergencies, Kerns said. “We were lucky, this time,” Kerns said.

Myers said the Pittsburg County Emergency Management Board had no plan for this type of emergency but the group will meet next to discuss  “how why  and what we can do better next time.”

Also affected were business owners and consumers; credit card machines and ATMs could not be used and at least two local banks were only allowing withdrawals of up to $200 for customers.

Misty Stewart of The Bank NA said although service was limited for their customers during the outage, all three Bank NA branches remained open.

“We did our best to help our customers,” Stewart said.

McAlester business owner Mark Deason said his oil and gas business was affected by the outage.

“I couldn.t email or call anyone; it was very inconvenient,” he said.

Walmart Customer Service Manager Cameron Daniel said the store stayed open and was still able to process most transactions.

Meanwhile, AT&T corporate spokesperson Charlie Price issued a statement about the incident Friday.

“Service was fully restored early this morning to AT&T customers in the McAlester area who were impacted when a cable was cut yesterday by a contractor doing work for a third party,” he said in the statement.

“Technicians repaired the damage and service is currently running normally.

“We apologize for this inconvenience.”

Contact Jeanne LeFlore at jleflore@mcalesternews.com.