A widespread AT&T cell outage, which is the result of historic flooding in southeast Louisiana, has been deeply worrying to officials concerned about residents who need to report rising water or call for evacuations.
Baton Rouge and Livingston area users began noticing the lack of service around 6 a.m. Sunday morning. By Sunday evening, some users were reporting on social media that their service was returning.
During a press conference on the state of the emergency flooding, Gov. John Bel Edwards said Sunday one of the company's switching facilities on Choctaw Drive had taken in water, and that the company was still in the process of assessing the damage to see how quickly they can restore service.
He said his office "got word" earlier Sunday that AT&T officials were also considering mobilizing a mobile switching facility, but that it would come in from out of state, so would also "take awhile to take place."
The governor expressed his frustration with the outage, and admitted that the lack of service was impeding rescue operations.
"It affects communications, whether people trying to request help, or whether we’re trying to communicate with people to make sure we’re directing assets correctly," Edwards said. "It does present a problem."
The outages also sparked outrage among southeast Louisiana residents, many of whom took to Twitter and other social media sites to complain about the company's service failure and its lack of communication to customers.
"@ATT cell service is down in Baton Rouge & other places," Twitter user Lunden Mouton said. "We are in a state of EMERGENCY & cannot afford a lack of communication for rescuing."
Another user, Chris Handy, reiterated the thought.
"Hey @ATT it'd be nice to have cell service during a flood crisis. #laflood," he wrote.
In a statement, AT&T attributed the outage to "power outages" and "significant flooding" caused by severe weather.
The company did not estimate when service might be restored to those who had been going without it.
"We are monitoring our network closely and will continue to coordinate with local officials and utility companies," the company said in a statement shortly before 10 a.m. Sunday. "We have technicians and resources staged and as affected areas are safe to access restoration work will progress. It is recommended that customers text before calling when possible and utilize Wi-Fi where service is available."