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Thunderstorms knock out emergency lines

NEW HANOVER COUNTY -- Strong thunderstorms wreaked havoc on the Port City this weekend, cutting connections to some vital emergency services including 911. New Hanover County's 911 Center lost six of its emergency telephone lines Saturday. Telecommunications Director Brenda Hewlett says those lines are still trying to get fixed Monday. Operators at the 911 call center say some telephone lines were out of service for more than 12 hours after lightning struck one of their towers. Call center administrators say some of the computers' motherboards were fried and technicians had to wait until Monday morning to bring in new equipment. In the meantime callers were asked to contact non-emergency numbers if they needed help. But despite the loss of several lines operators say each call that did come through was answered. Hewlett said, "No one should have seen a difference in the way we handled our call volume -- just the units on the streets and how we had to dispatch them. We didn't lose power... We were still covered." Hewlett says technicians have been working all day to restore damaged equipment. The downed emergency lines should be back up and running by later Monday evening. Telecommunications say in case of emergency you should be able to dial 911 without any problems. But if you can't through to an operator you're urged to call a non-emergency line at (910) 452-6120.

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