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Record Snowfall in Pacific Northwest Brings Out Best in Tower Technicians

By J. Sharpe Smith, Senior Editor

The record snowfall that hit Seattle and the Puget Sound region over last weekend created hours-long traffic jams, canceled hundreds of flights, downed trees and knocked out power to more than 90,000 households in the Puget Sound area. Those were the headlines. Behind the scenes, tower services companies like Legacy Towers worked around the clock for days, keeping hundreds of cell towers up and running and as well as the 911 network.

“The storm, which began last Friday, caused power to be out for four days, keeping our crews busy refueling and sometimes repairing generators and checking on batteries,” said Jim Tracy, CEO, Legacy Towers. “We were on an eight-hour shot clock to make sure these generators were up and running. After our employees’ safety, our first priority was to keep 911 on the air, which not only consists of the emergency dispatch centers but also ensuring that enhanced 911 equipment at the cell sites is compliant for the carriers, which suffer penalties if those systems go down.”

Legacy Towers brought in all 83 of its employees, some from eastern Washington and others from Montana in advance of the storm.

“Employees at Legacy Towers are the unnamed, unnoticed heroes any time the weather gets really ugly. I call them the zero-responders because they jump into action before the first responders are needed,” Tracy said. “Before the snow even began to fall, it was all hands on deck. We work with the carriers hand-in-hand. When they started forecasting really bad weather, we got involved in lots of proactive activities well before ‘snow-mageddon’ hit.”

The effort of a couple of team members stood out to Tracy. He spoke of the Sno-Cat driver that, after his 12-hour shift, volunteered to drive nurses to the hospital.

“Another employee worked 18 hours at a network operations center, literally with a phone stuck to both ears and went home and answered more calls instead of sleeping. When he came back to the office, we had to make him go home to actually sleep,” Tracy said.

The expanse affected by the storm covered an area from the Canadian border 200 miles south to Centralia, Washington, and from the Pacific Ocean 140 miles to Snowqualmie, Washington. In order to service all the towers, Legacy Towers ran three Sno-Cats, four quads with snowmobile tracks, two utility sleds and 30 trucks. (Photos courtesy Legacy Towers)