Landslide knocks out telephone service

More than 15,000 people on San Mateo County’s coast were left without regular telephone access — including the ability to call 911 — after a landslide struck a fiber-optic cable in the hills above Half Moon Bay on Saturday.

“The damaged cable is in a coastal, mountainous area near Highway 92 that is not accessible by vehicle,” AT&T spokesman Ted Carr said.

Service had not been not restored by press time Sunday. Telephone service was interrupted at 8 p.m., Carr said, and the company subsequently sent up round-the-clock teams to hike up to the cable and attempt to get the system working again.

The incident was a further frustration for residents, who already lost one of their main routes of access in and out of the area when a landslide closed Highway 1 at Devil’s Slide earlier this month.

The San Mateo County Sheriff’s Office stationed extra units of officers and volunteers from the county search and rescue team in the unincorporated coastal communities, with emergency posts and increased drive-by patrols, Sheriff’s Sgt. John Gonzales said.

The phones were not completely out, he added: people testing their dead phones by calling 911 did get a signal through, and emergency responders drove out to the non-emergency situations. Some residents also reported being able to receive but not make calls.

“Everything’s been nice and quiet so far,” Gonzales said. The only close call, he added, was when an elderly man in Montara fell and hit his life-alert device, which did not function.

His daughter ran outside and flagged down one of the patrols, but no emergency personnel were needed, he said.

“It took out Internet service and DSL. It took out ATMs,” La Honda resident Dave Schorr said. “People I’ve talked to said it’s kind of a wake-up call about how dependent we’ve become on our high-tech infrastructure, and … apparently how fragile it is.”

kwilliamson@examiner.com

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