By Peter Vankevich and Connie Leinbach
A prolonged internet and phone outage Friday afternoon on Ocracoke had island businesses scrambling.
The outage, from Hatteras to Ocracoke and which included land phone lines, happened around 4 p.m. and was restored at 6 a.m. today (Saturday).
Dare County Emergency Management reported Saturday morning that a fiber cable was damaged on the afternoon of Friday, severing internet, cellular and landline phone service to Hatteras and Ocracoke islands.
Suddenly, Ocracoke was in a cash-only situation.
Some restaurants, such as SmacNally’s harborside restaurant, closed because even with cash-only, they would not have been able to track orders, said Brooke Doan, one of the managers. Others, such as the Ocracoke Oyster Company took credit card information manually as well as cash.
Ocracoke’s Hyde County Commissioner Randal Mathews said the cut cables occurred somewhere between Oregon Inlet and Mirlo Beach, Dare County. He was among those who were concerned about losing the ability to call 911 in an emergency in this situation.
“The landline is our lifeline,” he said, adding that fiber optic cables are buried several feet underground. “The fiber optic cable is buried deep enough so that pushing sand around or whatever is not usually not an issue.”
Mathews said he was in touch with Hyde County government yesterday afternoon because he has a Starlink connection for his electronics. That satellite-based service was not affected. Ocracoke deputies were out being more visible, he said, in case there had been an emergency.
This is the second sustained outage this year due to fiber being accidentally severed up the beach. On March 15, CenturyLink’s fiber optic cable serving Hatteras and Ocracoke Islands was inadvertently damaged during the replacement of a damaged fire hydrant in the Whalebone area of Nags Head.
This caused Ocracoke and parts of Hatteras Island to lose internet and cellular service. Landline service was not affected.
That time, it took several hours before service was restored.