MICHIGAN--Update...Phone Outage Hits Thousands from W. MI to Lansing and Jackson

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Phone outage hits thousands

Friday, March 17, 2000

The Grand Rapids Press

Thousands of Ameritech customers from West Michigan to Lansing and Jackson lost phone service Thursday, including Michigan Lottery offices.

The problem began at 9 a.m. and its cause was not immediately clear, Ameritech spokeswoman Julie Balmer said.

The phone outage is being blamed on a CSX freight train blocking traffic at several Holland intersections during lunchtime.

The train sat on the tracks between 15th and 32nd Streets about 11:40 a.m. for about 35 minutes.

CSX workers finally had to split the train into sections to let traffic through at the intersections of 16th, 24th and 32nd streets while they tried to contact the local Wyoming office and later the railroad's dispatch center in Jacksonville, Fla.

Cell phones, the crews' backup method for communicating when the radio was down, were not working, either.

Under federal law, a train is required to stop when communication is down.

"They don't know if they have a clear track or not," Holland Police Officer Rob Brewer said.

Although the Holland police department has been cracking down on trains that block intersections, CSX was not cited Thursday afternoon because the problem was mechanical, Brewer said.

Around 9 a.m., all 6,400 electronic lottery terminals statewide shut down because they could not communicate with the lottery's main computer in Lansing.

Communication was restored for about 5,400 terminals by 1 p.m., but by then the Daily Game's noon drawing had passed. The remaining 1,000 terminals were up by 4 p.m.

Lottery spokeswoman Sarah Lapshan estimated that about half of the noon drawing's sales were lost. Of the estimated $300,000 in lost sales, about $105,000 would have gone to the school aid fund.

The outage also kept consumers out of the Secretary of State's computer system.

Balmer said she did not know how many people were affected or could not define the geographical boundaries where service was knocked out.

Other state offices in Lansing with internal telecommunications systems largely were unaffected by the outage, said Kelly Chesney, a spokeswoman for the Department of Management and Budget.

Communication between computers at Secretary of State branch offices and main computers in Lansing were down for about three hours.

Department spokeswoman Elizabeth Boyd said branch transactions were handled manually and that service was not interrupted.

Ameritech officials say the outage that affected Lansing was caused during routine maintenance at a Lansing utility during a switch from battery power back to regular power.

Beyond that, Ameritech spokeswoman Jody Juckem had no details.

While she could not say how many customers were affected by the phone outage, she said 99 percent of them had their phones restored by 10 a.m.

Phone problems also made it difficult for Consumers Energy customers to reach the company. Company officials are asking anyone who tried to call Thursday to call back today at (800) 477-5050.

The Associated Press and Press Lansing Bureau contributed to this report.


-- (Dee360Degree@aol.com), March 17, 2000


March 17, 2000 Ameritech Glitch

If you had trouble making a call Thursday, or logging on to the net -- most of mid-Michigan had the same problem.

With the problem stemming in downtown Lansing and spreading into five counties.

The sudden phone outage crippled many operations.

An Ameritech spokesperson says the culprit was an internal electrical shortage that occurred when one company facility was switching systems from commercial to battery power.

That same system directs phone traffic for most of Ingham, Eaton, Jackson, Livingston and Clinton Counties.

In case of an emergency, dialing 9-1-1 just wouldn't work.

The emergency 9-1-1 service in Lansing was only without phone service for about 45 minutes.

Once 7-digit local service was restored, the emergency system was able to recieve calls through an alternate route.

But for most residents in mid-Michigan the lack of phone service ended to be just a temporary minor inconvenience.

Ameritech says it has restored phone service to 99 percent of its customers.

Ameritech anyone still without phone service should have it back on by tomorrow.

If you still do not have 9-1-1 service, police urge you to go directly to your local police precinct or fire department in case of an emergency.


-- Martin Thompson (mthom1927@aol.com), March 17, 2000.

On no! Not the lottery!

-- Uncle Bob (unclb0b@aol.com), March 17, 2000.

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