Communication to outside world cut off again
City officials are working to ensure that it doesn't happen again, but City Manager Michael Kovacs said if Mustang Island again loses telephone communications with the "outside world," the best thing is for residents to call the local police non-emergency number.
That number is 749-6241.
"Program it into your cell phone and into your household phone, so you can call it with just one button push," Kovacs advised.
The city's 9-1-1 emergency phones stopped working for more than an hour Wednesday afternoon, Jan. 2, and calls could not be made off-island from mid-afternoon until about 7:30 p.m. The problem occurred when workmen sliced through a fiber optic cable at State Hwy. 361 and Zahn Road on Padre Island. That line carries all phone communications, including computer digital subscriber lines (DSL) from Port Aransas.
The break was where another line cut left Mustang Island isolated on Oct. 23 as a contractor for a billboard company cut the line. In fact, crews were trying to make a permanent repair to that break when they cut the line on Wednesday. That repair has now been made, said Dan Feldstein, a spokesman for AT&T. He said AT&T apologizes for the inconvenience.
Even cell phones were affected, because once they reach the tower in Port Aransas, they travel by wired system.
"Your wireless call still has to go over the phone network," CenturyTel phone company spokesman Tracey Moses said.
The 9-1-1 problem occurred because calls to the city's emergency number are handled by a regional cooperative emergency phone network, Kovacs said. Calls to the Port Aransas police dispatcher should have been switched automatically to the San Patricio County dispatcher but weren't, he said.
Police Chief Sam Russell is meeting with CenturyTel officials to learn what went wrong and to ensure it doesn't happen again, Kovacs said.
Local calls weren't affected by the line cut.
Kovacs said police maintained emergency communications with surrounding agencies by means of ultra-high-frequency radios.