People along the North Shore on Tuesday found themselves reverting to a pre-Internet and telephone world after a damaged fiber-optic line in Duluth shut down communications.
Internet service, along with cell and landline phone communications, was disrupted just before 11 a.m., when a steam pipe in a manhole burst, said Qwest Communications spokeswoman Joanna Hjelmeland.
“A steam pipe burst and the hot steam hit one of our fiber lines and melted it,” she said, acknowledging that the mishap interrupted service from Two Harbors all the way to Grand Portage. A crew working to repair the line Tuesday night also knocked out service to portions of Duluth.
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.
WTIP broadcast emergency numbers and updated information throughout the day and into the evening. Service was restored at 9:53pm last night according to the Cook County Sheriff’s Department.