But blackouts and service disruptions aren't the only result of workers and homeowners coming into contact with utilities. Power lines are a lethal threat to cable installers, construction workers and the unaware homeowner trimming a tree or installing satellite dish. And damaging other utility lines can result in costly construction delays.
AT&T has been sending repair crews out to patch breaks in its lines several times a week since it repaired its phone and data network after Katrina. "We do have an ongoing issue with construction crews cutting our cables," said Sue Perry, a spokeswoman for AT&T Mississippi.
"We have about 20 a month, leading to service disruptions." Both construction crews and homeowners have been digging up and breaking the new hi-tech fiber-optic cables running underground. Most people, she said, do not realize an entirely new network has been installed south of I-10 since the 2005 hurricane. That network, which supplies high-speed Internet access for business and residential customers, runs in sealed conduits below ground rather than up high on the old-fashioned utility poles. Mississippi Power also runs electricity through underground lines. Some of those lines carry more than 600 volts.
"Mississippi Power averages two accidents a month from diggers who are unaware of the utility lines below," said spokeswoman Cindy Duvall. "Accident reports show it's when workers are repairing and putting in a fence or building new construction on a piece of property that didn't have any existing structure."
Duvall recommended homeowners or construction crews who are about to dig call Mississippi's One-Call System at 8-1-1 at least 48 hours before they start. She said utility crews will come out and mark underground water, sewerage, electrical, gas, cable and phone lines.