Posted on 12/24/2015
Updated on 12/27/2015
On the morning of Thursday December 17 some of the EONI equipment located at Mt Fanny failed. This outage is impacting some customers in the Cove area and all customers in North Powder. We have made three unsuccessful attempts to reach the Mt Fanny site. Yesterday we finally reached the Mt Fanny tower and identified the problem. We brought spare parts but did not have all of the tools and parts we needed to restore service. We are making our next trip to Mt Fanny on Saturday December 26.
We have been updating recordings so that when customers call EONI at 541-962-7873 they can hear the updates on where we are with our efforts to restore service. We did not want customers with no Internet to be referred to the Internet for more information, however there are more questions than we can answer in the recording. So we are using our news page to provide information.
We recognize the Internet is essential and our customers rely on our service for critical business operations. We know this is especially difficult with the holidays as well. We plan to offer credit for this outage to our affected customers. However we will wait until we have the service restored before applying the credit so we know how long the outage lasted so we can apply the correct credit amount. The safety of our team is the highest concern. We know at the end of the day excuses for a failure to deliver your Internet service do not fix your Internet. This repair has been our top priority. We just hope if you read on you will be able to appreciate what we are working with to restore service.
Within 2 hours of the outage we used the EONI Jeep Wrangler 4 wheel drive and 4 rubber tracks with substantial ground clearance to travel to Mt Fanny. The vehicle which had worked well a month prior to make this trip had problems that required us to order parts to repair the vehicle. We ordered parts but they would not arrive until Monday even with expedited delivery.
Friday December 18
In the morning we called a La Grande helicopter company but their company did not have a pilot available. We also learned that our previous option to rent a snow cat was not longer available for rental (we had used this option in previous year to reach Mt Fanny). Snow cat rentals are not easy to find.
Later that morning we used the EONI snow mobiles to travel to Mt Fanny (7800 feet), where we found substantial snow accumulation since December 17. We were not successful at getting past Moss Springs (5500 feet) due to increasing heavy snow as we traveled to higher elevation. We headed back about 2PM...on our way down we found a group of experienced snow mobile riders and headed back up...as they helped us pack down the road to the towers. Snow fall was substantial and even these experienced riders struggled as snow mobiles got stuck frequently causing us to use lots of energy and time to reach our destination. We got to less than 2 miles of our equipment and had to turn around as it was 8PM (elapsed time on this attempt: 5 hours), we were in blizzard conditions and very cold. We were fortunate to get home by 11PM. There is a tall post with foot markers on it within 2 miles of our equipment which had snow up to the 5 foot mark.
Saturday December 19
In the morning we reached a Baker City based helicopter company and they did not have the required machine available, paperwork and other clearances required to carry passengers and land on a mountain top. They were aware of nobody else in the area with any service that carry a person and land on that mountain.
Monday December 21
We got the jeep repaired and replacement parts tested.
Tuesday December 22
Took the jeep to Mt Fanny. Since the jeep can carry more equipment we had a chain saw. We used it to remove a down tree (likely due to the heavy snow) that was blocking the road. More snow had fallen and the snow drifts were too deep to drive more than about 1/3 the distance needed to reach our equipment. Our tracks were packing down into 2 foot or more depths.
Wednesday December 23
EONI traveled to Idaho to visit a company sells snow cat vehicles. Meanwhile...we got a group of riders together to help pack down the snow and help us get to our equipment. We started riding the 13.5 miles at 8:15AM. We were not carrying a chain saw on our backs...but the four of us moved a large tree blocking the road so we could continue riding. As expected when packing down snow there were several times we got snow mobiles stuck. It takes while sometimes to get those out of the deep snow. We had one rider that got separated from the group and got stuck and sent two riders to help him while the EONI rider switched to snow shoes and walked 2 miles to reach the EONI equipment. The snow marker read 7 feet of snow. This marker shows the snow at the marker...but the drifts can be much deeper. Along the way a very large tree (not one we could move...and that would have been challenging to cut even with a saw...was over the road...we found we could duck under and just barely get a snow mobile under if you ran the throttle and walked beside. One rider turned back and the other two caught up with EONI at the equipment site. It was about 2PM when we arrived at the tower/EONI equipment site. Ice fog, wind and more snow blizzard conditions were all occurring at the same time at the tower. It was extremely difficult to move let alone climb the remaining mountain slope with snow drifts to the tower enclosure where our suspected equipment fault was located. We found a failed piece of equipment and a problem with a cable that links this tower to the rest of the EONI networks. We struggled with snow blowing into the equipment enclosure, standing on icy platforms, gloves frozen solid, frost bite, melting a frozen lock with a blow torch and many other items that make everything take longer and use up more daylight. In the end of Wednesday it was very frustrating have taken now four trips and failed to restore service. We tried alternatives until 6PM and without the tools and equipment we needed to try another plan we headed back ...we had one of the other rider's snow mobile have engine problems and had to leave his machine and ride double out...then we found the rider who had turned back earlier in the day walking out (he was very cold and very dehydrated) and picked him up as well. Riding double in deep, twisty, uneven snow ruts is quite a challenge to avoid getting stuck, climb hills and maneuver we got back home at 930PM.
Thursday December 24
We know we need a way carry all the tools, network equipment, safety equipment (for climbing towers), first aid, food and water in any weather conditions. We can see that our investments in a tracked Jeep and snow mobiles are not enough. We have chosen to purchase our own snow cat vehicle so that we do not have to rely on others and be stuck with no solutions when we have to get to our equipment. Purchasing a snow cat is very expensive, unplanned capital expenditure. However we do not see any alternatives. We are traveling to Idaho today to get the snow cat and trailer and will plan to use it on Saturday December 26 to get us to Mt Fanny. We truly hope to be able to restore service on Saturday. At 6PM the LMC 1200 snow cat has arrived. We have a team preparing to travel to Mt Fanny on Saturday.
Saturday December 26
We loaded up many tools, replacement equipment and supplies into the snow cat. The snow cat operated perfectly. The ride was 2.5 hours. Slow and steady is much safer and stable when carrying all we need to carry. We saw several places where snowmobiles had gotten stuck and we did not even get close to stuck once. We used the chain saw and cut out the log that blocked the road which we ducked under previously. We were complimented by a pair of snow mobile users for our trail grooming skills. We were able to stay warm and dry all the way to the tower site. We arrived about 1PM and had service restored to North Powder by 2:10PM. The Cove access point was restored to service by 2:40PM. We conducted some other maintenance and left the tower site by 4:15 and were home by 7PM. We feel confident that the EONI snow cat is the way to get to any of our mountain top sites in winter. See some photos of this mission here.
Just as a side note:
On the snow mobile trips we are carrying food, water, tools, replacement equipment and snow shoes on our backs with packs weighing 40-50 pounds. Cell phones do not reliably work in the areas we have to travel. We are switching to 2 way radios to improve communications. But it is not possible to carry everything we want to carry from a convenience, utility, comfort and safety standpoint.
Jeff Crews, Vice-President and co-owner of EONI was personally on each of the trips and is writing this news post. Sorry for the lack of photos and videos...some felt affected customers might appreciate some of those. We have been totally focused on getting the repair done and documentation has been lacking. I started this news post on December 24. Sorry for the delay.