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UPDATE: Phone Service in Wis. Rapids, Surrounding Area Now Restored

By: Madeline Anderson, WSAW Staff Email
By: Madeline Anderson, WSAW Staff Email

After more than three hours without it, phone service has been restored in the Wis. Rapids area.

Monday morning, road construction workers cut a Solarus fiber line in the ground on Hwy 66, just off Hwy 34 north of town. The accident caused cell phones across several providers to stop ringing, and affected some land lines.

"It's unfortunate to know that a city or emergency communications can be paralyzed by simply cutting one line," said Wis. Rapids Mayor Zach Vruwink.

Vruwink says his office relied on an emergency response workshop the city held a few weeks ago to handle the situation.

"We were actually forced to put that to use," he said. "So it was nice to have that exercise and to assemble it. I'm very proud of the team."

Part of that response included figuring out how to get the word out that lines were down, including 911.

"My heart raced, because my thought was, oh my gosh, in a situation like this, time is life or death," Vruwink said. "So whether via Twitter, via Facebook, online, text messaging, we put out a Nixle through the Wood Co. Dispatch Center."

The dispatch center also formed a plan for the hour and a half that its phones weren't working. "We had already come up with some alternative phone numbers--texting to my phone, emailing to my email, and calling to the numbers we knew worked," said dispatch manager Kelly Zenz.

Zenz says several calls did come through via those alternate routes.

"Radio service was never interrupted," Zenz said. "And that was kind of our fall-back. If it was going to persist for much longer, we had amateur radio operators that were going to go out in the field. We had police and fire that were ready to disperse across the area. If you need some help, look out the street for city workers, or whoever is on the street and they have radio communications with us."

Complaints first came in around 10 a.m. Solarus crews were able to patch the line within an hour and a half for anyone trying to call 911. All phone lines were working by 1:41 p.m.

"If you would have been the one trying to call 911 and couldn't get through, it could have been very serious," Zenz said. "Luckily nothing happened that we know of."

Zenz says a similar situation has happened before, but never for such an extended period of time.

While service is back up, the fiber line is not completely repaired. That could take a couple days, but the city says it will try to warn residents beforehand.

UPDATE: 2:15

Service for cell phones and land lines is now restored, after repairs were completed on the broken fiber line, according to Wisconsin Rapids police.

UPDATE: 1:54pm

Wisconsin Rapids Mayor Zach Vruwink tells us on Twitter that there is a temporary patch active for 911 service. You can still use the alternative methods below if you have problems getting through. He also says those with emergencies can go to the Fire Departments, City Hall, or local an emergency vehicle.

UPDATE: 1:30pm

A Solarus representative confirms one of their fiber lines was cut. They are on scene, working to repair it, although they say it typically takes 4-6 hours to repair. They began work around noon.

UPDATE: 1:23pm

The Wisconsin Rapids area is experiencing intermittent cell phone and land line outages which may affect 911 service. If you have an emergency, Dial 911.If you cannot get through, call 715-421-8702 or 715-459-1160. If you still receive no response, you should e-mail kzenz@co.wood.wi.us or text to 715-213-2622 Your e-mail should contain your name, address, the nature of the emergency, and a call back number. The outage is due to several cut fiber lines. It may be several hours until all service is restored.

Earlier:

According to an news alert from the Wisconsin Rapids Police Department, the City of Wisconsin Rapids and surrounding areas are experiencing cell phone and land-line outages. All cell phones in the area are affected, and many land lines.

Wood County dispatch says a cut fiber line north of Wisconsin Rapids is causing the problems across carriers. A spokesman for AT&T tells us that fiber line is operated by Solarus in Wisconsin Rapids. Calls to Solarus were met with a 'all circuits are busy' error message.

The Wood County Dispatch Center says they're experiencing significant problems with their 911 service. They say if anyone needs to contact 911, they you should try land lines.

NewsChannel 7 tried to call the Wood County Dispatch Center and could not get through.

Viewers from various locations in Wood and Portage Counties are reporting problems.

We're following the story closely and have the latest as it develops.


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