Cable operators in central Florida credited their fiber optic upgrades with enabling
them to escape major damage from the tornadoes that killed 23
people and decimated hundreds of homes in and around Kissimmee, Fla.
Even in communities in Osceola County, where the storms hit
hardest, Time Warner Cable and Adelphia Cable Communications reported service lost to only
a few thousand homes and quick resumption of service after the tornadoes passed through.
"We feel good -- our rebuild proved remarkably
robust," said Mike Luftman, vice president of public affairs for Time Warner.
The cluster serving Osceola County lost only 6,000
connections, 3,000 of which were restored by noon Feb. 24. No employees were injured, nor
did any lose homes, he added.
Quick resumption of service was due in part to the
system's disaster plan, normally implemented in the face of hurricanes, said Time
Warner vice president Diane Pickett. Like the military, employees have assigned disaster
stations. They deployed after the storm, activating a backup generator that got the 3,000
homes back online.
Time Warner's preparedness contributed to the
community disaster-response effort. Because the cable system had its own power, emergency
personnel were able to use its communications lines to direct repair efforts, Pickett
The disaster put the local news channel, CFN13, in the
spotlight, too. CFN13 devoted continuous coverage to the impending disaster, then the
aftermath, initiating an on-air fund-raising drive to benefit victims.
Adelphia also serves the devastated Osceola and Orange
counties. Unlike earlier this decade, when Hurricane Andrew destroyed Adelphia's
system in Homestead, this disaster was kinder to the MSO.
The system's prime concern was for one employee who
lost her home. Fellow workers took time off to help the woman recover whatever she could
from the wreckage, said Linda Nygang, general manager for Adelphia's systems in
Orange and Osceola counties.
Adelphia has a hurricane plan, too, "but tornadoes are
hard to plan for -- you don't have advanced warning."
"We have a few strands of plant to replace," she
said, "but there are no poles."
Tele-Communications Inc.'s TCI of Central Florida will
also have little in-house recovery, said business-operations manager Sean Hendrix, so
employees have already turned to the needs of the community at large. The local Red Cross
reported that it was flooded with clothes and other hard goods, but that it was cash-poor.
TCI employees began fund-raising among themselves, Hendrix said.
TCI's media-services department covered the storm and
its aftermath on its morning news.
Operators said there were generally more outages due to
lost power than to plant destruction.