Hurricane Dorian continues to crawl along the coast of Florida, and communications providers along the Southeast coast are braced for its impacts. The slow-moving storm has been downgraded to a Category 2 hurricane, with winds of about 105 miles per hour, after battering the Bahamas with Category 5-strength winds and rain.
The Federal Communications Commission has activated its voluntary reporting system for network damage, and the first round of damage reports came in yesterday morning.
“Damage to communications appears to be minimal,” the FCC said, although it immediately followed up with the warning that “typically, the worst effects of a hurricane are not felt until one or two days after the hurricane passes through.”
Out of nearly 10,000 cell sites serving the 34 Florida counties where the FCC’s reporting system is active, only 16 were reported down as of 11:30 a.m. Tuesday. At that point, though, the storm’s full effect had yet to be felt in Florida, and concerns are rising about major flooding in the Carolinas as the storm moves northward over the course of this week.
Of the Florida cellular sites which were down and for which additional details were available, two were reported down due to power issues, eight were down due to backhaul issues and two were out due to damage.
FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said in a statement early this week that the agency worked through the weekend on storm prep and inter-agency coordination. In addition, he said, “FCC staff have been deployed to conduct ‘pre-landfall’ surveys of the radio frequency spectrum in projected impact areas, which will help us identify any impacts to public safety communications and broadcaster outages.”
In a blog post yesterday, AT&T reported: “Our wireless network is operating normally, and we have limited wireline impact to the East coast of Florida despite tropical storm force winds. We have seen a small number of commercial power failures at our Network Facilities, but they have transitioned to secondary power without problem. A majority of the wireline issues are related to POTS service and are being managed business as usual.”
As of a 9 a.m. Wednesday update from the National Hurricane Center, Dorian was less than 100 miles off Daytona Breach, moving northwards at about eight miles per hour. Hurricane-force winds extend about 60 miles from its center, and tropical storm-force winds up to 175 miles out.
Network operators, both wireless and wireline, have been updating on their readiness. Verizon is offering free texts, calls and data for customers in areas impacted by Dorian, and AT&T said that it will be waiving overage charges on mobile service for its prepaid and postpaid customers who are directly impacted by the storm in Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, and South Carolina between September 2 and September 8. Sprint is doing the same. T-Mobile US reminded its customers that most of them already have unlimited services, as it released a list of hurricane-prep tips for staying connected.
We’re ready to jump into action — our call center teams have been volunteering with Verizon Response in the path of Hurricane #Dorian to prep charging stations & battery packs to assist First Responders in their relief efforts. Recovery starts when good people help good people. pic.twitter.com/p0bRdg6L2A
— Verizon (@verizon) August 31, 2019
We’re doing our part so you can take care of what matters most. As #HurricaneDorian preparations continue, follow our live blog for updates: https://t.co/4IpxCuciyc pic.twitter.com/mbweFQLUm6
— AT&T (@ATT) September 3, 2019
As #HurricaneDorian’s path continues to shift, we will also assist customers in Georgia and South Carolina by waiving call, text and data overages for @sprint customers from September 2-8, 2019. Full details here: https://t.co/hHierxKSLC pic.twitter.com/jDeVAloo5z
— Sprint News (@sprintnews) September 3, 2019
We’re continuing to keep a close eye on #HurricaneDorian and will update our newsroom with new info as we have it. Stay safe!
— T-Mobile (@TMobile) August 30, 2019
AT&T said that it is completing storm prep in the Carolinas and that its FirstNet liasons “are in contact with federal and state officials on our deployment efforts to support public safety and the communities in the storm’s path.”
The carrier added that it has assets at the ready for communications recovery, including nearly 60 deployables to provide cellular coverage, two mobile command centers, charging stations and more than 1,300 portable generators.
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