“Radio Towers Are Down” Says Panama City Police Chief

Search and rescue teams are working to find people after Hurricane Michael hit the Florida Panhandle on Wednesday. Crews are cutting away fallen trees so power can be restored. Nearly 400,000 electricity accounts had lost power in Florida as of noon Eastern Thursday, reported NPR.

“We have almost no lines of communication,” the city manager of Panama City Beach, Mario Gisbert said, in an interview with NPR on Thursday. “I mean, my police chief cannot communicate with my sheriff right now. Cell lines are down, radio towers are down.”

Major carriers prepared for the storm by deploying assets in the areas expected to be hit hardest by the hurricane. AT&T said some customers, “may be experiencing issues with their wireline and wireless services in areas where the storm made landfall.” The carrier is monitoring its network as storm conditions continue and is coordinating with emergency management officials and local utility companies. “Our technicians have been preparing for storm-related issues and are working to respond to affected areas as quickly and as safely as conditions allow,” said AT&T on Thursday. 

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said yesterday, data from the agency’s Disaster Information Reporting System (DIRS) shows Hurricane Michael caused “substantial communications outages along its destructive path.” Employees from Pai’s office and the Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau contacted carriers and broadcasters to assess the situation to discuss how to restore service as quickly as possible. He singled out carriers for praise, noting: “We were pleased that carriers had prepositioned equipment and were in the process deploying cells on wheels (COWs) and cells on light trucks (COLTs) in order to get wireless service up and running in many locations.”

101 counties are covered by DIRS right now. Florida has the most cell site outages, according to the first report. Out of 2,543 cell sites, 733 or 28.8 percent are not working. Eight out of Liberty County’s nine cell sites is out, or nearly 90 percent. Bay County followed, with 256 out of 327 cell sites out, or just over 78 percent.

In Georgia, 554 out of a total of 3,910 sites are out – or just over 14 percent. Schley County had the most outages by percentage, with six out of nine cell sites not operational, or 66.9 percent. Grady County followed, with 26 out of 42 sites not operational, or just under 62 percent.

In Alabama, out of 759 cell sites, 70 are not working, or just over nine percent. Henry County was affected the most, with 17 out of 38 sites impacted, or more than 44 percent.

Only four TV stations were off the air while 23 remained on the air in the affected areas. For radio, 61 FMs were on-air and 30 were dark. 18 AMs remained on-air with 4 off the air.

October 12, 2018   

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