From 1:30 a.m. Friday, Jan. 16 to roughly 4:10 p.m. the same day, Tucumcari was without land-line based phone service and according to city officials much of the community ground to a halt.
The cause according to Qwest personnel was a break between Tucumcari and Clovis somewhere near Ragland. At this time the cause of the break has not been released.
Fire Chief Mike Cherry said even emergency services were somewhat out of touch since the 911 emergency number was unable to take calls directly and the backup system that was thought to be able to handle the situation did not work as well as it was expected to.
“We got along OK” said Cherry. “It could have been much worse, but it could have been better too.”
Cherry said people couldn’t not call directly to 911 number but there was a special roll over system built in that sent the calls to the police station. The calls couldn’t be immediately tracked to a location as with the regular calls normally, but “at least they could get through to an emergency source.”
Cherry said he was called by Qwest emergency personnel almost immediately after the break in the line occurred so Cherry would be prepared for the problems that might come up.
Bankers reported an interruption in the ability to handle much of their customers’ business since information is now stored and accessed by phone systems using phone lines.
“We were definitely affected,” said Amanda Hammer, assistant vice president of First National Bank, “but since we were the only branch out, we could call other branches with cell phones and have them access it for us. So we got through, but it was a headache.”
Hammer said that she heard that other bankers in the area were in much the same situation as they were.
Motel managers and personnel said that they too were affected markedly.
“We couldn’t get any reservations in,” said William Horton night auditor at the Best Western Pow Wow Inn, “and people who were here were upset because they couldn’t call out. You know they wanted to contact family.”
Bob McClelland of Bob’s Budget Pharmacy said for him the phones being was a “royal pain.”
“It just makes you realize just how dependent we are on the phone.” said McClelland. “It’s almost as bad as electricity.”
McClelland said that it could have been much worse for his pharmacy but he just recently went from land-line to satellite for prescriptions.
“If I were still on phone lines, I might as well just closed up. It would have been that bad,” he said.
As it was he said he would be working well into the next day straightening out the credit card certificates. While phone service officially came on line just after 4 p.m., some problems with random ringing of phones and busy lines that should not have been busy continued until late Friday evening.