LINCOLN - Just over a week ago, an accumulation of ice and snow snapped in half a communication tower important to emergency services in the town of Lincoln and northern Lewis and Clark County.
Lincoln Fire Chief Zach Muse, felt something was wrong when he wasn't getting any signal from his radio early last Tuesday morning. He found out that the issue was at the Stonewall Communications Tower, strong winds snapped it in half.
Muse had to turn to the backup system to restore radio communication.
"The digital radio system that we've we use in Lewis and Clark County now we're dropping back to an analog channel and it'd be comparable to the new cell phones. And then going back to 1995 with the older cell phones where it's, you know, scratchy, and if it's the service isn't really that good, it's hard to understand them," said Muse.
The older system does have other limitations. Metal buildings and structures can degrade the signal and make it hard to connect with other radios.
"There's areas where we can't use it and then the power of it, we can't use them in buildings on our handheld radios. Some buildings, maybe if it's all wood and doesn't have a metal roof, we can get through. But anything with a metal roof, we have to go outside to hear anything," said Muse.
With this temporary communication setup, the Lincoln Fire Department — as well as other emergency services around the area — are waiting until warmer weather so the tower can be repaired.
"So they're going to as soon as the ice comes off and we get a little, you know, 35-degree weather, they'll climb it, they'll cut everything, and then they'll put up temporary antennas. They'll put them back up on that base that's up there," said Muse, "So we won't have quite as good a coverage, but it'll be probably 90% of what we had before."