Sandy stalls much of LI's cellphone service

A Verizon lineman prepares to replace downed poles A Verizon lineman prepares to replace downed poles on Northville Turnpike in Riverhead. (Oct. 30, 2012) Photo Credit: Randee Daddona

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Even if Long Islanders somehow found the power to charge their mobile phones, they still had difficulty using them during and after the storm.

The reason is simple -- when the lights go out, so does the power that cell towers and antennas need to transmit calls, text messages and Words with Friends games. All the major carriers took steps in advance to keep their antennas functioning, but power outages were so widespread that much of Long Island was affected by dead cell service.

For example, in addition to all its other problems, Babylon chief of staff Ron Kluesner, a Gilgo Beach resident, said power was out there and cell service intermittent.

FCC chairman Julius Genachowski estimated Tuesday that 25 percent of the cell sites between Virginia and Massachusetts weren't working.

Representatives for the major cellphone carriers said Tuesday that they could not estimate how much of the Island was without service or how long it would take to restore it.

"We are in the initial stages of performing an on-the-ground assessment of our network for damage, and crews will be working around the clock to restore service," said AT&T spokesman Mark Siegel. "We are deploying personnel and equipment as soon as it is safe to do so."

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He said it was "way too early" to know when service would be back to normal. Andrea Kimmett of Verizon Wireless said her company was "still assessing" what it would take to restore regular service.

Sprint Nextel said it has had outages in the New York tri-state area, the Washington metropolitan area, Pennsylvania, and parts of New England.