LAKE PLACID - Telephone service was restored here Sunday to more than 100 Verizon customers whose land lines hadn't worked since Tropical Storm Irene barreled through the area three weeks ago.
Verizon equipment on River Road was damaged when the West Branch of the AuSable River flooded on Aug. 28. Repairs weren't complete until Sunday, according to Verizon spokesman Ray McConville. He said 112 customers were affected, mostly in the River Road and Cascade Road areas.
"Essentially it was a box on the side of the road. There was some electronic equipment in that box that was flooded," McConville said. "The mud damage in particular was problematic. Part of the problem with this particular outage was clearing right-of-way access to the site. It was a challenge to get in the area to make those repairs in the first place."
The lack of land line phone service for so long was frustrating for residents and businesses.
"Our phones were out for three weeks," said Rebecca Bowen, who works at Mountain Lake Academy, a residence for behaviorally challenged children located on River Road. "We were able to connect one of our phone lines to a cell phone, so every time it rang I had to take a message for the person or send them an email. We finally got service back on Sunday, although our fax line still isn't working right."
Colleen Warren, one of the owners of the Cascade Inn and Restaurant on Cascade Road, said phone service to the business was out for more than two weeks. She said Verizon technicians were eventually able to get their business line up and running using an old phone line, and the inn's credit card line was restored on Thursday.
"We're still on the old line, which has a hum to it, but they're supposed to switch us back now to all the new lines that they've put in," Warren said Tuesday.
Warren said the loss of phone service hurt business, though not as badly as some of the businesses in Keene and AuSable Forks that took a direct hit from the flooding.
"Everyone thought we were closed," she said. "If anyone called, it just kept ringing and ringing, or it didn't ring at all. That wasn't great for us, but we're doing way better than some other people around us."
Asked why it took three weeks to make the repairs, McConville said it was a combination of the extent of the damage and the fact that Verizon technicians were working to restore service in many other areas impacted by Irene, as well as Tropical Storm Lee, which struck about a week later.
McConville also referred to a press release Verizon distributed last week that said its response was complicated when 45,000 Verizon employees went on strike in early August, although those employees had returned to work six days before Irene hit.