By Irene Nolan, Island Free Press editor
with additional reporting by Connie Leinbach
A six-hour communication outage made life interesting, if not difficult, for Hatteras and Ocracoke island residents and visitors Sunday.
Shortly after 10 a.m., all forms of communications stopped — internet, all cell phone service, cable television, and some land lines.
Many of the islands’ land lines continued working, but both locals and visitors who rely on cell phones or the internet were out of luck. There was no email, texting, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram — all the means of communication upon which we have come to rely.
Communications returned about 4 p.m., though the reason for the outage is still not totally clear.
“(I) Don’t know what happened to cause the failure but it appears to have been a CenturyLink cable on the Bonner Bridge,” Dare County emergency manager Drew Pearson said in an e-mail when internet service returned.
“I have no indication it was the result of any construction activities,” he added.
Dare County Sheriff Doug Doughtie said that “a fastener holding the fiber optic cable to the bridge broke and when it broke, it compromised the cable.”
Doughtie said he sent extra deputy sheriffs to Hatteras during the outage.
Dare and Hyde county’s emergency radio system remained working, though people without a landline were unable to call 911. Many of Hatteras and Ocracoke first responders kept in touch via ham radio.
The outage made life difficult for some businesses that were open today and have Internet-based cash registers.
At the Ocracoke Campground and Gas Station, while the credit card machine are telephone line-based and worked, clerks Tabitha Brooks and Kelly Dunseath had to write down all of the sales transactions.
At about 2 p.m., they had four and a half full legal pad pages and 4 steno notebooks of transactions that they would have to enter into the registers when the internet was back on.
Leslie Lanier, owner of Books To Be Red, reported no problems since her register and credit card machine are telephone-line based.
The Ocracoke Variety Store has new internet-based credit card machines, but simply pulled out their old machines when the Net went down, said Trudy Austin, one of the clerks, toward evening closing time.
“Tommy is always prepared,” she about store owner Tommy Hutcherson.
She and Mandy Garrish Jones said the day had been busy and that many customers seemed to be lost without access to their social media.
“They were disconnected,” Austin said. “Everyone asked when (the Net) would go back on, but we didn’t know.”
“We told people to enjoy the day,” Austin said.
“We told everyone we planned this so everyone would have to talk to each other,” Jones added.
Neither Tideland EMC nor Cape Hatteras Electric Company’s power grid was affected.
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