By Connie Leinbach
Locals and visitors got a forced holiday from their cell phones and Internet yesterday when their service was cut off due to a fiber line being cut.
Simone K. Alley, media relations manager for Century Link, confirmed today that someone digging on the island had cut an underground fiber cable. The outage lasted from about 4 p.m. until around 1:45 this morning and cut off smart-phones, Internet and texting.
The employee assigned to the Ocracoke area took care of splicing the hundreds of wire strands back together, Alley said. She did not know where the mishap occurred.
She said neither 911 nor land-line-to-land-line calls were affected.
“We have an overlay that protects our voice,” Alley said, adding that she did not know how many customers were affected.
Tommy Hutcherson, owner of the Ocracoke Variety Store said that the event didn’t affect the store since they have a land-line back-up into which they can plug in and carry on.
“I have to keep those (land lines) in place,” he said. “I gotta be ready for these kinds of things.”
A sampling of island businesses showed that some, such as the Slushy Stand, had land-line back-up their credit card machines .
“It didn’t affect us at all,” said B.J. Oelschlegel, Slushy Stand manager.
The newer technology can scan and store all credit card data, but then the transactions have to be completed when service is restored, said Daphne Bennink, owner of the Back Porch Restaurant.
“Technology is great until it fails,” she said. “There was a moment of deer-in-the-headlights for us last night and it took us about an hour to get that alternate system in place.”
At SmacNally’s, all credit card transactions had to be done manually then completed today, said manager Daniela Gilbert between waiting on tables.
More than 80 percent of her business is with credit cards.
“And we were packed yesterday,” she said.
Darvin Contreras, an Ocracoke student sitting at Smac’s with fellow student Matteus Gilbert, said when the Net went down, he and his friends “just chilled.”
“Then we played video games,” he said.
WOVV 90.1 FM was affected, said Peter Vankevich, a station employee.
“WOVV could only be heard on the radio and not online,” he said about the station’s Internet streaming capability.
Donna O’Neal, a teller at the Yadkin Bank branch, was happy the outage hadn’t happened earlier.
“We had to hand stamp everything, we couldn’t do cash advances and the ATM was out,” she said.
Manual became the order of the day at Ride the Wind Surf Shop.
“Our credit card processing is Internet based,” said Bob Chestnut, owner. “Then we tried to use a Square device, but the phone didn’t work.”
So, he got out the old manual credit card swiper.
“Everyone got a good laugh when I got out that knuckle buster,” he said.
Roger Garrish, manager of the Sand Dollar Motel, said customers and tenants called him when the Internet went off.
“But I didn’t know what happened,” he said. “I think Ocracoke finally went into the ‘cloud,’” he said, laughing.
Amy LePage of Charlotte, who is visiting with another family and their children, noted that her kids freaked out when the ‘cloud’ went poof.
“So we all went up on the deck and had family time,” she said in a quick interview at the Ocracoke Station. “It was pretty cool.”