A report in the Duluth News Tribune casts doubt on the reason given by Qwest for the widespread communications outage along the North Shore. According to the News Tribune story, Qwest’s original explanation of a burst steam pipe melting a fiber optic line, isn’t supported by Duluth Steam Cooperative Association Manager Jerry Pelofske. The association is responsible for all steam lines in the city of Duluth, and Pelofske says no such incident occurred.
Qwest spokeswomen Joanna Hjelmeland, who gave the pipe rupture explanation, declined to comment on the situation. She said, “We are working on an investigation to confirm the exact cause of the external damage to our facilities.” Hjelmeland continued adding, “Until our investigation is complete, I’m not able to discuss more details.”
During the outage people along the North Shore found themselves reverting to a pre-internet and telephone world.
Emergency dispatchers up the shore scrambled to reroute 911 service through St. Louis County. Lake County deployed staff members at fire and ambulance stations in case anyone came by with an emergency. They also answered alternate 911 phone lines. In more remote Finland, ham radio operators made contact with the dispatch center in Two Harbors. In Cook County first responders staffed fire halls and relayed emergency messages by radio.
Cook County Commissioner Bob Fenwick said, “We will be having many more conversations on this as the days go on, in terms of how do we make sure these kinds of things don’t happen,” Fenwick added. “Someone could have had a medical problem in an out-laying part of the county. We know the consequences of that.”
WTIP broadcast emergency numbers and updated information throughout the day and into the evening. Service was restored at 9:53 p.m. last night according to the Cook County Sheriff’s Department.