This article was published 12 years ago
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No network to call for help

Hurricane Katrina New Orleans Louisiana Superdome storm surge
Floodwaters enter downtown New Orleans and surround the Louisiana Superdome after Hurricane Katrina’s record storm surge breached levees that surround the city. – Image credit: Airman Jeremy L. Grisham / US Navy

Hurricane Katrina devastated the gulf coast region five years ago; causing billions of dollars in damage, massive devastation across four states and thousands of lives lost as many drowned in their homes.

The storm also wrecked havoc on the communication networks, especially in New Orleans as the city the filled up with water from levee failures. With the city 80% underwater and quickly filling with more water, cellphone service became a lifeline to many that survived the storm and desperately needed help.

After the storm, T-Mobile’s network was reduced to 50% functional in the New Orleans market with the CBD reduced to an extremely, limited service.

With a damage but still operational network, T-Mobile processed 2.5 million calls in and out of the New Orleans area two days after the storm. The main switching facility survive the storm and remained operational after the storm as network engineers rode the storm out in the facility. If the switch failed, T-Mobile’s network in New Orleans and Baton Rouge would have failed.

In a press release from 2005, T-Mobile began working on restoring the network. “In order to keep the switch operational following the storm, T-Mobile immediately began airlifting supplies, technicians and diesel fuel into the facility to keep the switch supplied with generator power. This would not have been possible without the exceptional aid of local law enforcement agencies, which have been instrumental in assisting T-Mobile in keeping this vital communications link operational.”

Bellsouth, the main telephone provider for the New Orleans area, suffered extreme loses after the storm with the lost of 810,000 telephone lines in the four-state region and lost 19 central offices that housed equipment to route calls. Most of the COs were located in the New Orleans area. Bellsouth technicians tried to repair the damage network at its’ downtown CO but reports of a National Guard unit coming under fire forced engineers to flee the scene by Louisiana State Police.

With the lost of main telephone lines in New Orleans, wireless networks that were operational after the storm failed to route calls outside the region, especially to 911 call centers.