Power outage also takes down communication lines
By Megan Exline
Commoner Journal Staff Writer
McARTHUR – The lack of cellphone and landline phone service after Friday’s storms left Vinton County officials scrambling to ensure a secure calling system for residents in need.
The county’s 911 system went down late Friday, leaving local officials rerouting its system through Jackson County, Emergency Management Agency Director Jayson Potts said.
Potts said Monday the Vinton County Sheriff’s Office phone had been off after the storm came through the county.
“Half the time the phones are working, half the time they’re not. I know Frontier is doing everything they can to get the lines back up and going,” Potts said.
The sheriff’s office and other Frontier customers in the area were not the only ones suffering without service.
AT&T customers in McArthur were also left without service, and Potts said he didn’t believe service would be restored until power was restored to the area.
“A lot of the them have battery backups and it has just been long enough that the batteries are dying out. Until we get the power back on, those towers aren’t going to come back on,” Potts said.
Some residents were reporting improved cellphone service Tuesday afternoon and evening, as power started to come back on in McArthur.
Vinton County EMS Director Veronica McQuirt said they also have had problems with people having access to emergency services.
McQuirt said EMT Intermediate Tim Sparks did have cellphone service, and EMS used his cellphone while 911 was down.
“Tim had his cellphone,” she said. “He was the only one that had any access, so he was really good for staying here and keeping his phone available. He stayed the whole time. He’s stayed here since Friday.”
As a result of the power outage and heat, the EMS has responded to many cases of difficulty breathing, panic attacks and oxygen concentrator problems.
Oxygen concentrators run off electricity, so people on oxygen may need to contact their oxygen suppliers and make sure they have plenty available.
“If not, they can contact the sheriff’s office, and we’ll make arrangements to transport them to the hospital or whatever they need,” Potts said.
Potts suggested making arrangements and being prepared for an emergency ahead of time.
“Find out who has cellphones as far as your neighbors go, and how long you have to go before you have cellphone service. If you don’t have any service, I suggest that you go to the shelter,” Potts said.
A cooling shelter is open at the Vinton County Middle School from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Red Cross Frontline Supervisor Cheryl Cox said residents can charge their cellphones while they are there.
Potts also advised keeping an open eye and watching out for neighbors.
“If you know of any elderly that needs transportation to get to the shelter or anything, please help them,” Potts said. “If you’re unable to help, please contact us here at the sheriff’s office and we’ll do our best to make arrangements to get those people transported.”
With the high temperatures, McQuirt advised people to drink water, but said Gatorade would be better because it helps lift electrolyte levels. She also advised residents not to be afraid to ask for help if they required it.
“We can help, up to and not limited to medical treatment,” she said. “If people do need anything, we’re here to help them, we’ll do whatever we can.”