THE INVESTIGATORS: Phone issues persist following Hurricane Ida

Published: Sep. 2, 2021 at 11:29 AM CDT|Updated: Sep. 2, 2021 at 11:30 AM CDT
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BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - As Hurricane Ida roared through Louisiana, many customers were not just left in the dark but left disconnected and unable to reach anyone on their phones.

”Oh it’s difficult. Anything could have happened,” said Laura Burks. “To not have any way of getting in touch with anyone, it just adds to the stress that we’re already under.”

Laura Burks says it was a nightmare. She has AT&T and tells WAFB right after the storm made landfall she was cut off.

”I couldn’t get in touch with my mom and dad. Couldn’t get in touch with my daughter and her husband and find out how the baby’s doing. I couldn’t get in touch with my husband’s Side of the family. It’s stressful. You worry and all sorts of things go through your mind, especially in the middle of the night.”

Burk got service back Tuesday afternoon two days after the storm but even then, Burks claims the signal was not the best.

”It was very spotty. I can only hear parts of sentences,” said Burks.

”It’s very very spotty,” said Marie-lise Disher. “So it’ll work 10 minutes here and then I can’t do anything for the next three hours.”

At the height of the storm, AT&T told WAFB they were severely impacted by the conditions. Days after the storm, representatives with the company said they’ve made significant progress with about 90 percent of their customers reconnected. While they say they’re doing everything they can, some customers are fed up. Many told the 9News Investigators this is not the first time service has taken a hit. It was the same thing some folks went through during the 2016 flood.

“Anytime there’s a natural disaster, the service isn’t that great,” said Disher.

”One of the biggest problems we’re having in South Louisiana right now is cell phone coverage,” said Congressman Garret Graves.

While dealing with a spotty signal of his own in LaPlace, Congressman Graves told WAFB he sent a letter to the FCC urging them to do whatever they can to get cell service fully restored.

”What we did I we reached out to the FCC and worked with them as well as the providers to do interconnection agreements which allowed for the different carriers to share networks to allow everyone to get a little better coverage,” said Graves.

WAFB’s Scottie Hunter asked Graves if anything can be done to fix the problem going forward.

“Look this is certainly a lesson learned and unfortunately it’s not the first time. I think these networks have to be hardened and I don’t think that’s limited to cell networks. I think it also includes our electrical grid,” said Graves. “This is unacceptable and so we’ve got to learn from this one in terms of what else needs to be done in order to harden the cell system.. to where we can have more resilient communications and power in instances like this because we know it’s not going to be the last time it happens.

”WAFB did check with other companies like Verizon and T-Mobile. Both companies say most of their customers are also back online or were not affected at all. Still people we spoke with say it’s unacceptable and that not being able to reach your family in a time of crisis can be even worse than the storm itself.”

When you can’t get in touch with your family and when you’re worried about how they’re doing.. that’s the worst part,” said Burks.

”It’s very frustrating and very scary,” said Disher.

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