Verizon continues to work to restore communications to customers in the Florida Panhandle impacted by Hurricane Michael, but extensive fiber damage still poses a significant challenge for the carrier’s efforts in the hardest-hit regions.
Hurricane Michael made landfall Oct. 10 as a Category 4 hurricane, and a Verizon representative said over the weekend that the storm caused “unprecedented damage” to the carrier’s fiber network in Panama City, Panama City Beach and the surrounding areas.
In an Oct. 15 update, the rep said 99 percent of Verizon’s network is in service in Georgia and 98 percent is operational in Florida, but fiber cuts are still delaying complete restoration of service to those hardest-hit communities
“We continue to work round the clock on network restoration efforts and have seen some positive movement, although fiber connection – needed for cell sites and some mobile assets to work – still poses a significant challenge,” the representative wrote. “For example, as soon as we have fiber repaired and start to see sites come back on air, we experience new cuts resulting from other restoration efforts happening in the community such as clearing roads, residential property clearing, and replacing electric poles.”
On Saturday Verizon said that in the meantime it had deployed 10 additional Cells on Wheels (COWs) to the area that will be active when fiber is restored and a total of 23 portable assets including 10 eFemtos have been activated.
Verizon has set up a Wireless Emergency Communications Center at its Panama City store at 411A E 23rd St, with charging stations and service from a portable cell site that works with satellite connections.
The operator has deployed its Big Red Command Trailer, which has satellite connectivity to support the Bay County EOC; a tactical command trailer for the Panama City Beach Police Department; two connected trailers for the Salvation Army and the Gulf Coast Regional Medical Center; and mobile cell sites with satellite connection to support a variety of first responders.
AT&T on Sunday said that overall its “network is performing well and nearly fully restored in most affected areas.”
The carrier continues to do repair work and deploy additional equipment and portable cell sites (CoLTs) to support customers and FirstNet subscribers.
In a Friday update, T-Mobile said its sites in North Carolina and Georgia “are almost fully recovered.”
“The Florida Panhandle, particularly areas such as Panama City, Quincy, Marianna and Mars Hill where power and fiber transport outages are widespread, will likely experience a longer recovery timeline,” T-Mobile said.