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By Richard Taylor
FRISCO–Sunday wasn’t the best of days for the N.C. Department of Transportation Highway Division as they replaced aging drainage culverts under N.C. 12 near milepost 66 in Frisco, accidentally damaging the fiber optic cable in the process.
Press releases and messages on social media publicized this road closure many days in advance, but on Sunday many motorists were still unaware. Some folks traveling from Cedar Island via Ocracoke said they had no idea of the road closure and detour and had to wait at the barricades for hours.
Ocracoke has an NCDOT message sign at the village edge for ferry alerts, but it has not worked for quite some time.
In Frisco, signs on both sides of the project directed four-wheel drive vehicles to detour via a back road and on the beach to bypass the culvert construction.
That did not work out too well for impatient motorists without four-wheel drive who tried to drive on the beach anyway and got stuck. Jarvis Towing in Buxton had a bonanza of business.
Jarvis Williams said he didn’t charge motorists nearly what he charges commercially.
“It was almost like community service,” he said, noting that he pulled out about 30 vehicles in the soft sand and transported them.
Dare County sheriff deputies and NPS law enforcement officers had their hands full with the detour.
That was problem No. 1.
Problem No. 2 happened when the Century Link fiber optic cable was accidentally cut in the afternoon, leaving Ocracoke and much of southern Hatteras Island without internet and some cell and text message services for about 12 hours.
Ocracoke lost Internet at about 1:45 p.m. Land line calls and some cell phone callers got through via Century Link’s microwave link from Ocracoke to Cedar Island (and then to New Bern by fiber).
ATMs displayed “out of service” messages on Hatteras and Ocracoke. The Variety Store could take credit cards for later “batch processing,” but not debit cards. The Ocracoke Station gas pumps continued to work, because they don’t take debit cards.
Even though Century Link had marked their buried cables on the beach side of N.C. 12, DOT workers somehow damaged the old original Sprint-era, eight-fiber cable as they dug up the pavement to replace the 40-year old galvanized steel culvert with three new 42-inch versions.
Century Link had a technician on site by the mid-afternoon, but their fiber optic repair crews had to come from Manteo and the Elizabeth City area, arriving shortly before 7 p.m.
After uncovering and prepping the damaged cable, they began splicing the hair-like fibers at about 11 p.m. Internet service returned to south Hatteras and Ocracoke at 2:07 a.m. Monday.
Although the disruption of service due to a cut cable this time was not nearly as disastrous as when PCL Construction workers severed the major electric power cable during construction of the new Marc Basnight Bridge over Oregon Inlet on July 29, 2017, it did cause problems and loss of productivity.