Phone, data outage at San Juan Islands causes island fever

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by ELISA HAHN / KING 5 News

Bio | Email | Follow: @ElisaHahnK5

KING5.com

Posted on November 7, 2013 at 6:29 PM

Updated Thursday, Nov 7 at 10:52 PM

Editor's note: San Juan County Department of Emergency Management tweeted CenturyLink reported 911 and island-to-island calling was working on Orcas Island as of 4 p.m. Thursday, and 911 was working on San Juan, Orcas, Shaw and Lopez islands.

SAN JUAN ISLAND, Wash. -- Frustration was spreading on the San Juan Islands, where residents entered their third day of a major phone and data disruption.

A main fiber optic line broke Tuesday morning and the problems go far beyond losing 911 services.

Laura Flaum, owner of Spring Street Deli in Friday Harbor says the outage has severely impacted her business. She can't run any credit cards, so customers have to pay with cash.

She went from making 50 to 60 sandwiches a day, to making three.

"It's devastating to businesses when you can't do credit transactions," Flaum said.

CenturyLink still doesn't know how an underwater fiber optic line was broken or how long it will take to fix it. Technicians are still trying to find a solution.

Internet and data transmissions are spotty at best. Some banks are closed. ATMs are down.

Sheriff Rob Nou says when 911 service went down, emergency personnel had to scramble to alert the public.

"Reaching out to the community, getting fliers out, getting sandwich boards out, knocking on doors," said Nou.

Century Link had to redirect 911 calls to other working numbers on most of the islands.  On Thursday, San Juan County Department of Emergency Management tweeted CenturyLink reported 911 and island-to-island calling was working on Orcas Island as of 4 p.m. Thursday, and 911 was working on San Juan, Orcas, Shaw and Lopez islands.

At the Friday Harbor Pharmacy, they finally got their internet back on Thursday. But staff can only call and receive calls from doctors and clinics on the island.

"We were unable to receive any transfers, or prescriptions from the mainland," said pharmacy technician Cheyenne Mauldin.

Residents say the situation has moved beyond frustrating.

"I can only call on the island by phone," said Ann Jarrell. "My cell phone is non-functioning. I have no internet, no email."

"I can't tell the weather," said resident Barbara Wollman. "I can't make an airline reservation. There's so much I can't do."

The bookkeeper at a gas station says she had to install a satellite dish just to order fuel.

Island residents are thick-skinned, but island fever is spreading quickly.

Although tourists can't call to confirm hotel reservations, county council member Rick Hughes hotels want you to come anyway.

"If you want a rustic getaway, when you can feel sealed off from the mainland, this is the weekend to do it."

 

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