Much of the South’s early communications infrastructure was installed in the 1960s, expanded during the 1980s and 1990s, and is nearing the end of its life span.
When Hurricane Zeta made landfall on the Gulf Coast in October, 2.6 million people in the Southeast U.S. were left in the dark. From the Mississippi coast to Atlanta to smaller cities like Anniston, Alabama, people waited—some for days, others for upward of two weeks—in living rooms and kitchens lit by candlelight for their power to return, reliant on the longevity of cellphone batteries and mobile chargers.
Caressa Chester, a climate justice program officer at the Foundation for Louisiana who has lived in the state for five years, said that after the worst of Zeta passed, she and her neighbors gathered outside their homes to take stock of the damage and pool their resources.
“My power was on and off for about 48 hours, but my internet was spotty for weeks after,” she said. “None of us really knew what was going on—a lot of information traveled by word-of-mouth from neighbors or texting friends.”
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