By MOLLY TOWNSEND
The Union Democrat
Roughly 500 residents around Tuolumne, Calaveras and Amador counties — areas particularly hard hit by recent storms resulting in a state of emergency — have lost phone service for extended periods of time while AT&T technical repair employees were deployed to deal with the pressing southern California flood crisis.
Flash flood warnings were issued for the eastern San Gabriel Valley and east of Palm Springs on Dec. 22, while heavy downpours pummeled the Southland from Santa Barbara to San Diego, according to the Los Angeles Times.
“They (Southern California) had the wettest December in 120 years,” said John Britton, AT&T spokesman. “We’ve been facing a situation where repair times are longer than we’re comfortable with.”
Due to such unstable conditions in the Southern region, AT&T was forced to bring in more tech workers from outside of California to deal with the crisis, which in some respect diverted attention from Northern California repairs, Britton said.
Approximately 1,000 workers from AT&T’s construction and electric division across California were taken as well and placed temporarily in the repair mix, according to Britton.
“Right now we have approximately 6,000 employees across California working on repairs,” Britton said.
Britton said also that AT&T borrowed technicians from Stockton as well to help deal with repairs in the Tuolumne, Calaveras and Amador county region.
Darlene and Ted Bandley, of Long Barn, were two such unlucky residents in Northern California whose AT&T phone service was lost beginning on Dec. 28 and was predicted to be out through Jan. 17, according to Darlene Bandley.
The Bandleys’ service was restored on Jan. 4 — earlier than predicted — though the eight days they were without service were very trying, Darlene said. Her major concern was the well-being of her elderly parents and the fear of not being able to get in contact with them should the need arise.
“My husband had to leave the house and go a mile and a half away to get cell phone service,” she said.
Another Tuolumne County resident who lost service provided through AT&T on both her land and business lines was Gayle Poulson, of Sonora. Poulson’s service went out on Dec. 20 and was restored on Jan. 6.
“This is a first,” Poulson said. “Whenever it’s gone out before, it’s been just a couple of days before we could get (AT&T repair services) to fix it.”
AT&T’s normal provisioning time for repair is either same day or next day, Britton said — though storms have severely delayed that predicted time line.
“We slipped beyond that with these storm conditions,” Britton said. “We have our techs on overtime until the end of January (to deal with the crisis). Many of them are working 12-hour days.”