Fiber optic cable break disrupts Tahoe 911 calls

A severed fiber optic cable disrupted phone, fax and Internet service, impacting emergency phone lines like 911 and stifling businesses around Lake Tahoe this weekend.

Details were vague Sunday, but police said a phone service employee said a worker at a power company accidentally cut the cable at about around 12:50 p.m. Friday.

The inconveniences lasted throughout the workday.

South Lake Tahoe police and Placer County Sheriff's Department were forced to reroute emergency lines to other dispatch centers.

The police department sent 911 calls to the El Dorado County dispatch in Placerville. The center then relayed calls back to the Tahoe police dispatch.

Upon hearing of the disruption, Lt. Martin Hewlett ordered officers on break or writing reports back on the street. A dispatcher advised officers to look for people flagging them down in the streets.

Placer County Sheriff's Department in Tahoe City routed emergency calls to their dispatch in Auburn.

A dispatch supervisor at Douglas County Sheriff's Department said only calls from the Stateline area were hindered, but staff would have to use a phone book for alternative numbers besides 911.

France Carreau, who works at Yellow Pager Communications Systems, could not fix or activate cell phones without the non-local phone service.

"You can't call out," she said. "Life is very difficult right now. You know, it's very nice."

Gary Aldax, spokesman for Sierra Pacific Power, which supplies power to most of the Tahoe region, denied responsibility.

"I don't think it's us," he said. "We didn't have anything to do with it."

Aldax did say the company was at fault for a 20-minute outage in the Stateline area after crews worked on an underground "faulty switch."

Aldax didn't know the number of units affected. Power was rerouted for houses. A partial feed was given to casinos, which also used their backup power sources, Aldax said.

E-mail William Ferchland at


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