Customers of Traer Municipal Utilities internet service may have noticed an interruption in service over the past couple weeks. The problem came not from faulty mechanics or human error, but from above. The TMU building was struck by lighting on the unluckiest, and perhaps fittingest, of days: Friday the 13th.
The strike occurred around 7:15 a.m., and by 7:30, the crew was already receiving alarms from the water treatment control panel. Lightning actually destroyed the power supply within the control panel and damaged a transducer.
By 8 a.m., word arrived that both the internet and phone systems had also been affected. The phone system was ultimately fixed by patching and substituting working phones in areas where they were most needed, allowing the city to continue functioning relatively close to normal capacity.
Restoring the internet service, however, has not been such an easy task.
"The communications link that provides our access to the outside world, along with every piece of equipment in the building needed to be replaced," TMU General Manager Pat Stief said. "After the wrong equipment was delivered and returned, and four days of reprogramming, we discovered that the new equipment was faulty."
The city continued work over the following days, going so far as to drive all the way to Rockford, Illinois, to retrieve parts, getting most internet service restored by Saturday, July 21, in the process. But the work continues, and the folks at the TMU aren't taking it lightly.
"We are still experiencing some connection issues and email availability issues," Stief said. "And we are continuing to put in 18- to 20-hour days attempting to resolve every issue."
The city has been assisted in their efforts by the Dysart Farmers Cooperative Telephone Company, two previous employees as well as outside consulting from Cedar Rapids and Minneapolis.
In addition to the damage already assessed, the city believes there may also be damage to the equipment that is used to remotely control one of the Caterpillar generators. As of yet, there has been no verification of this due to the internet connectivity issues.
"I want the people of Traer to understand that we are aware of how much of an inconvenience this has been," Stief said. "And I want them to be assured that we are working long hours to get the situation rectified."
"We deeply regret the difficulty this has caused, and we appreciate the patience and understanding that everyone in town has demonstrated during this time."