March 29, 2020

Hope Amid Ruins> No Phones; Service out near Machias

MACHIAS — Washington County residents in many outlying communities not only have lost their electrical power, but have also lost phone service provided by Bell Atlantic.

Phone service in some of those communities could be intermittent until Bangor Hydro’s distribution system is completely restored. The company has indicated that could be months, according to Michael Carter, a technician who was heading up Bell Atlantic’s Machias crew Monday.

Carter said most Bell Atlantic customers who are more than 10 miles from a main office are on remote location distribution systems that rely on electricity. Bell Atlantic has main offices in Machias, Calais, Eastport, Woodland, Princeton, Pembroke and Cutler. Each of those offices has a generator that comes on when the power goes off, Carter said.

There are no generators at most of the 50 remote locations and the backup for those installations is commercial power batteries, Carter said.

“The batteries last from eight to 24 hours, depending on usage,” Carter said. “If your’re on the phone for three hours, you are really draining the battery. People should use their phones sparingly.”

Bell Atlantic crews in the Washington County division are bringing generators to each of the remote locations to recharge the batteries, Carter said. That work will be ongoing and Bell Atlantic is bringing in additional generators, he said.

Carter said the intermittent outages don’t affect toll-free lines because they are on long-distance circuits, which are powered by the generators at the main office.

The 50 remote locations stretch from Milbridge to Vanceboro, Carter said, They include areas such as parts of Cutler, Wesley, Northfield, Hadley Lake and nearly 20 other communities.

Some critical remote installations have their own generators. Carter said the Federal Aviation Administration site in Bucks Harbor sends out aircraft signals and, as a result, has its own generator.

Bell Atlantic crews are working 10- to 15-hour days, Carter said. Although the ice storm didn’t wreak the havoc on telephone wires that it did on power lines, the company is repairing phone lines that lead into people’s homes, he said. Bell Atlantic doesn’t usually make those repairs, Carter said, but the company has made an exception in this case.

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