Crisis Response Efforts Recognized

Multichannel News published this week a round up of five tips on how to prepare for and respond to natural disasters, like Hurricanes Ike and Gustav.

Suddenlink was featured prominently under the second and third tips: “Become part of the local response team” and “Take care of your people.”

Almost There

As residents return to Galveston, progress continues to be made in other areas impacted by Ike, including Suddenlink’s hardest-hit communities: Conroe, Lake Conroe, and Kingwood.

Raymond Mills, VP/Engineering for Suddenlink’s Texoma Region, reports that Conroe and Lake Conroe are now 90% online for Suddenlink services and Kingwood is approaching 70%.

All three of these cable systems have construction crews working plant and fiber repairs. As power comes up and technicians run trouble calls, additional outages have been identified, caused by “connector pull outs, defective/burned electronics, passive devices, etc.” — all typical issues in post-hurricane situations. Our trouble calls currently range from reconnecting a piece of equipment to repairing a broken line running from a customer’s home to the Suddenlink network.

Additional technicians are being deployed to the three noted systems today, to help run trouble calls through the end of next week. As more power comes up in the systems and repairs are made, we will add/adjust our workforce as required.

In Kingwood, approximately 60% of commercial power has now been restored. Generators continue to be moved around there and set in locations where we have customers with power to their homes and/or home generators, so we can provide signals to them.

Conroe and Lake Conroe are approaching 100% for commercial power, and most plant repairs should be completed by the weekend if not before.

Post-Ike Updates

UPDATE 4:35 pm CT, 9/22/08: Huntsville, Lufkin and Nacogdoches, Texas, have been upgraded to “business as usual” — and we hope to upgrade Kingwood, Conroe, and Lake Conroe (plus other nearby communities) to that status later this week, assuming progress continues apace with the restoration of commercial power by the power companies in these areas.

Suddenlink repair crews made great progress over the weekend in Kingwood, Conroe, and Lake Conroe, the most severely damaged Suddenlink systems. Conroe and Lake Conroe are now at about 90 percent restored (i.e., 90 percent of customers should be able to receive Suddenlink service when electricity to their neighborhoods is restored). Kingwood is currently around 50 percent restored, with additional progress being made daily.





Residents filled the Kingwood Library Sept. 17 after Hurricane Ike to charge their numerous batteries for laptops, cameras, cell phones and to enjoy the air conditioning while checking their e-mail. A majority of residents around the community did not have power for several days which caused them to rely on the businesses in the community that did have power like the library and several restaurants. [Photo Credit: The Observer, Kingwood, Texas.]


UPDATE 2:30 pm CT, 9/19/08: “Business as usual” conditions have been restored in all Ike-damaged areas of East Texas except Kingwood, Conroe, Lake Conroe, Huntsville, Lufkin, and Nacogdoches.

Suddenlink customer-care offices are open in all communities, except Lake Conroe. That office is expected to reopen Monday.

Suddenlink crews have used generators to provide power to conduct system tests and locate problems, even in the most severely damaged areas.

“Our people have done a great job finding creative ways to diagnose problems without having commercial power,” said Texoma Region Vice President Todd Cruthird. “Our tests showed yesterday that, if full commercial power had been restored, about 85 percent of our customers across all affected areas would have been able to receive Suddenlink service. Our crews have repaired hundreds of drops [connections from customer locations to the Suddenlink network], along with downed fiber and cable.”

Even with some power outages still affecting service, Suddenlink had restored service to about 95 percent of Lufkin customers, about 90 percent in Nacogdoches, and about 80 percent in Huntsville. On Wednesday and Thursday this week, crews repaired about 300 drops in Nacogdoches. Suddenlink is still powering some of its neighborhood nodes with generators until commercial power is fully restored.

In many of the hardest-hit areas, Suddenlink must wait for commercial power crews to complete their work before our crews can safely complete cable-system repairs.

Cruthird said he was proud of his team: “We’ve had a number of people tell us they appreciate the work by our staff, and in many cases, they’ve said our were the first trucks they saw in the affected areas.”

He also lauded employee efforts to help their team, gathering groceries, diapers, and other supplies to send to their colleagues and families in the hardest-hit areas.

Suddenlink has also provided cable services to shelters in East Texas.

Cruthird said that he expected Suddenlink would be ready to return to business as usual in all areas in the next five days, assuming commercial power needs are met.




UPDATE 4:20 pm CT, 9/17/08: As of earlier today, commercial power was still unavailable in large portions of Kingwood, Conroe, Lake Conroe, and Huntsville. Other Suddenlink cable systems — which were either not impacted by Ike or have since recovered — are sending additional fuel, generators, and personnel to help us expedite restoration of our services after electric service is restored. We extend to the power companies and their employees our very best wishes, as they work through these difficult circumstances.




Ashley Cook / The Lufkin Daily News


UPDATE 9:45 am CT, 9/16/08: Commercial power outages continue to be the primary challenge in our largest east-Texas cable systems impacted by Hurricane Ike.

As of last night, little had changed since mid-day yesterday, with the exception of Lufkin, where the estimated percentage of the community still without power was in the 40 to 50% range, down from 75% earlier in the day.

As we receive reports of continued progress by the power companies, we will provide additional updates on our progress. In the meantime, Suddenlink crews continue to do whatever they can to ensure that our services are available as soon as possible after power is restored.




Nick de la Torre / Houston Chronicle


UPDATE 12:30 pm CT, 9/15/08: While power-company crews are making steady progress, many of the Suddenlink communities impacted by Ike are still without power. Following is a status summary for the hardest-hit of our major cable systems in east Texas. As before, our crews are actively repairing damage where it has been deemed safe to do so and where they have been cleared to do so by local authorities.

Conroe: An estimated 100% of the community was without commercial power this morning. Physical assessment of fiber lines has been completed, with minimal damage identified. Physical assessment of non-fiber lines will continue and should be completed today.

Lake Conroe: As in neighboring Conroe, an estimated 100% of Suddenlink-served homes in Lake Conroe were without commercial power this morning. Physical assessments of damage are nearly complete, with approximately 30 locations identified so far where trees have fallen on fiber lines and are targeted for repair.

Kingwood: An estimated 90% of the community was without commercial power this morning. Suddenlink crews have completed their physical assessments of damage and identified several thousand feet of downed cable and fiber lines targeted for repair.

Huntsville: An estimated 80% of the community was without commercial power this morning. Suddenlink crews have completed their physical assessments of damage and identified several hundred feet of downed cable targeted for repair.

Lufkin: An estimated 75% of the community was without commercial power this morning. Suddenlink crews have completed approximately half of the physical assessment of damage and identified around 30 locations where strands are broken and targeted for repair.

Nacogdoches: An estimated 75% of the community was without commercial power this morning. Suddenlink crews have completed approximately three-fourths of the physical assessment of damage and identified several thousand feet of downed cable targeted for repair.

(Note: Most Suddenlink-served communities in Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Missouri were operating normally this morning. Much of the Ike-inflicted damage in those areas was repaired over the weekend. Of the few Suddenlink systems in these states that are still recovering, the remaining issues are generally related to loss of commercial power, including Hot Springs Village, Ark., where an estimated 30% of Suddenlink-served homes are still without commercial power.)




UPDATE 5:20 pm CT, 9/14/08: The vast majority of Suddenlink service areas impacted by Ike are still without commercial power. In addition to back-up generators already in place, we are deploying more and checking on the availability of others.

Damage-assessment work continues in most markets. We are finding some damage to our cable plant, and may continue to do so, but most issues are currently related to the lack of commercial power.

We continue to emphasize the need for our crews to keep safety top of mind as they proceed with their work, wherever they have been cleared by local authorities to initiate repairs.

Starting tomorrow, we should be in position to provide market-specific updates for the largest affected Suddenlink communities.




David J. Phillip / Associated Press


UPDATE 4:05 pm CT, 9/13/08: As Ike’s winds and rain move farther north through Texas, the Suddenlink communities that were first impacted have central cable facilities up and running on backup generator power and are still transmitting basic cable TV service, although widespread power outages are likely preventing customers from viewing TV and may thus be impacting other services, as well. (Note: A few local or regional TV stations may not be available in the Kingwood area due to storm-related issues; however, most “expanded basic” cable channels are up and running at Suddenlink’s Kingwood headed, a.k.a., central technical facility.)

Physical assessments of the potential damage to cable lines are underway in many areas, though not all crews are yet able to begin these assessments.

Initial reports from local power companies indicate that their restoration work could take several days or even weeks before completed. Regardless, additional Suddenlink personnel are already moving toward the impacted areas, where allowed to do so, so they can be in position to initiate required cable repairs as soon as possible after power crews finish their work and provide a “green light” to our crews.

Given the breadth of the power outages — and the evolving nature of this storm — we will likely not be in position to provide (in this forum) timely, specific, market-by-market updates for at least 24 hours, pending local circumstances stabilizing and commercial power being restored more broadly. Please stay tuned.




UPDATE 3:00 pm CT, 9/13/08: From Kingwood to Huntsville, cell phone service appears to be down for at least one maybe other cell providers, potentially impacting the ability of repair crews to communicate with each other. Alternative modes of communication are being pursued.




UPDATE 12:55 pm CT, 9/13/08: Initial reports from east Texas indicate that the hardest hit Suddenlink communities were Conroe, Lake Conroe, Kingwood, Huntsville, Lufkin and Nacogdoches, with major power outages confirmed in the latter two and likely the others. We do not yet have estimated time of repairs by power crews, which must necessarily proceed work on cable lines. As of this update, heavy winds and rain continued to pound Lufkin and Nacogdoches, according to reports from regional Suddenlink staff.




Johnny Hanson / Houston Chronicle


UPDATE 12:30 pm CT, 9/13/08: Power outages were reported this morning throughout Suddenlink and other communities in southeast Texas and southwest Louisiana. We are still awaiting details from east Texas, which seems to have sustained the greater damage, as suspected.

In Louisana, several of the same communities impacted recently by Gustav are now cleaning up post-Ike. In Lake Charles specifically, Suddenlink crews report flooding and power outages. Very little of the cable plant (wires) were taken down by the storm. Similarly, power company representatives informed Suddenlink crews that relatively few utility poles were broken and that the power outages may be caused more by blown transformers than downed lines.

We will provide more details as we receive them, although there may be some delays in posting new information, given that our field personnel are rightly focused on crew safety and service restoration.



Among others, the Houston Chronicle and Weather Channel online offer comprehensive news updates on Hurricane Ike. We will start providing updates here tomorrow, focusing specifically on Ike’s impact on Suddenlink customers and communities, and the post-hurricane recovery efforts in those areas.

In the meantime, Suddenlink teams in east Texas and southwest Louisiana are actively preparing to help restore service, post-Ike, in coordination with local authorities and power crews.

Our best wishes, thoughts, and prayers go out to all who are in the storm’s path.