AT&T news story highlighting two (2) members from Local 9423.
Our employees Eric Nelsen and Michael Morasca were featured in the AT&T Newsroom and the San Luis Obispo Tribune for their efforts to keep our customers connected after a mudslide destroyed California’s famous State Highway 1 in Big Sur.
Hwy. 1 slide severed cable near Big Sur. Here’s how AT&T used giant foam dart gun to fix it
APRIL 05, 2021 10:20 AM
· Part of Highway 1 collapsed near Big Sur in late January 2021, severing an AT&T communications cable. COURTESY OF AT&T
Eric Nelsen and Michael Morasca, field technicians for AT&T in San Luis Obispo County, take their jobs seriously.
But they may have felt a little boyish glee when they used an industrial version of a Nerf gun to shoot a temporary communications cable across a 150-foot chasm where part of Big Sur’s Highway 1 pavement used to be.
The two techs were at Rat Creek, 30 miles north of the Monterey County line, having arrived as soon as Caltrans determined it was safe for them to be there.
That section of Highway 1 washed away in a mudslide in late January after a torrential storm dumped 17 inches of rain on the area. The rain pushed debris from the Dolan Fire into the area’s drainage pipes, clogging them and creating a backup of water.
About five miles of Highway 1 are currently closed to all vehicle, pedestrian and bicycle traffic.
The AT&T cable that Nelson and Morasca were there to fix is the only line of communication for residents living near Big Sur, which meant the two men had to move fast.
But as AT&T spokesperson Suzanne Trantow posited in an email, how do you fix a severed cable when its ends are dangling 30 feet down a cliff and into the ocean below?
Nelson recalled that he and Morasca “decided if we could retrieve the two ends of the cable, from both the south and north side of the gap, we could then string some type of temporary cable across the canyon to restore services.”
The pair channeled their inner ranchers, using ropes as lassos to hook onto and pull up the cables hanging over the cliff edge.
“We’ve never considered ourselves cowboys,” Nelson joked, “but we did a pretty good job wrangling that cable from the hillside and pulling it up safely.”
But they still had to come up with a way to “shoot a wire over the gap.”
With the help of coworker Scott Cardinalle, they used a company-issued foam dart gun, with a string attached.
They shot a line across the 150-foot canyon to Cardinalle on the other side. Then the team quickly spliced the cable and confirmed phone lines were back up.
As Trantow explained, the method is used often, but rarely under such extreme circumstances.
“Our technicians use foam dart guns for many reasons, like to help run cable through attics, tight crawl spaces and other challenging areas,” he said.
Jon Mohnike, the team’s manager, said the team restored service quickly, in less than 48 hours.
“My guys all have over 20 years with the company and know how important phone lines are to customers, especially in a remote area like this,” Mohnike said. “They treat customers like family and know we need to step up and do our job, even when conditions are challenging.”
And, as Morasca says, “adverse conditions are part of the job.”
Nelson said his team also restored service in the area in 2020 — minutes before residents received a reverse 911 call asking them to evacuate because of encroaching wildfires.
Since the initial fix after the slide this winter, the AT&T team moved the temporary cable again as construction crews worked to repair the roads.
Working closely with other teams across the company, including construction and engineering, they adjusted the cable, running it around a nearby mountain.
“I feel we go looking for the most unique and difficult jobs, because we enjoy what we do,” Hansen said. “Knowing that just maybe we helped someone that day — by restoring service — makes us feel good.”
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San Luis Obispo Tribune: https://www.sanluisobispo.com/news/local/community/cambrian/article25039...