CenturyLink says its crews have found the break in the more than two-mile-long underwater cable that supplies phone communications to the San Juan Islands.
Though 911 and landline service has been restored, according to CenturyLink, it doesn’t know when full cellphone service will be back.
Most phone communication was disabled on San Juan, Orcas and Lopez islands this past Tuesday because of the break, a problem that also made it hard to process credit-card and bank transactions. On Thursday, 911 phone service was restored to landlines and some cellphones. CenturyLink says it restored landline service Friday, while wireless carriers set up temporary devices using radio waves to help increase cellphone coverage.
Over the weekend, Verizon said it was able to fully restore service to its cellphone customers. Its technicians and engineers raised six-foot microwave dishes up 140 feet onto towers.
Late last week, the San Juan County Council declared a state of emergency because of the communication problems.
CenturyLink says its crews still haven’t determined what caused the cut, but an earthquake just three minutes before CenturyLink’s first alarm notification may have played a part in creating it.
Crews found a piece of cable at least a 100-feet-long severed at both ends laying about 5,000 feet from Lopez Island and 280 feet below the water’s surface, said Meg Andrews, a spokeswoman for CenturyLink. The fiber-optic cable was suspended along a rock facing south of where it was originally placed in 1999.
The next step for the crews will be assessing how much more damage there might be along the cable. Andrews said that assessment will help determine how long it could take to fully replace the damaged line. A large barge might be able to anchor at the site by Tuesday afternoon to begin splicing new fiber into the severed line, according to CenturyLink.