Skagway long-distance, cell phone service down

Weather hampers fix of microwave systems

Posted: Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Long-distance and cell phone service in and out of Skagway went down on Tuesday and could remain out for several more days, according to phone service provider AT&T Alascom.

Local telephone service within Skagway, provided by Alaska Power & Telephone, has not been interrupted, according to Stan Selmer, manager of Alaska Power & Telephone. Skagway residents also still have access to Internet, DSL and satellite telephone systems.

The Alascom long-distance system began experiencing intermittent outages over the weekend and went completely dead on Tuesday, Selmer said.

"The most logical scenario is that at Halutu Ridge the antenna has iced up to where the weight has deflected (the microwave) off its path," said Kay Witt, AT&T Alascom operations manager. "It's happened there once in the past."

The Alascom network serves Skagway with a satellite microwave radio system called a repeater. Witt said repeater systems on Mount Ripinski, about 15 miles southwest of Skagway, and on Halutu Ridge, about 8 miles southwest of Skagway, might have been damaged.

AT&T Alascom maintains 60-plus satellite network sites in Southeast Alaska and nearly 400 in the state, he said.

But technicians will not be able to troubleshoot the problem until the weather permits them to fly to the site.

A low cloud ceiling and short daylight hours have prevented the technicians from flying from Juneau to Skagway and on to the repeater sites, said Cathy Opinsky, an AT&T Alascom spokesperson in Anchorage.

"Until they can get out, it's down," she said.

AT&T Alascom is uncertain how long the system will be out of service, according to Opinsky.

• Timothy Inklebarger can be reached at

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