Hurricane Irene Cell Phone Coverage: Networks Aim to Keep Services Running

Cell phone users on the east coast may be left without service in the midst of hurricane Irene, which hit land in North Carolina on Saturday and is heading steadily northward.

Carriers are also concerned, as it could be the second time in less than a week that cell phone service might be interrupted due to extreme weather.

The 5.8-magnitude earthquake in Virginia earlier this week sent tremors as far as New York and Toronto and left many unable to make calls for hours due to a flood of calls jamming networks. There is concern that a similar incident will happen in the wake of the hurricane, which is also expected to affect much of the east coast.

Strong winds and heavy rain may easily knock out various methods of communication. But wireless services are doing what they can to ensure that users are not without means of communication as the storm rages on.

Major carriers such as AT&T, Verizon Wireless and Sprint are preparing for the event that cell towers are down and services are interrupted. Vehicles equipped with portable cell towers are being deployed and will be able to quickly replace permanent ones damaged by floods or high winds.

Sprint and Verizon in particular have also noted that it will be implementing portable generators in the event of a power outage.

T-Mobile says it has confidence that its service will remain active throughout the storm.

"Teams will continue to support and assist any network restoration that is needed as soon as the hurricane passes," T-Mobile stated on its website.

Thus far, many carriers report that they have had no loss of service in areas that have already been affected by Irene, such as Florida and North Carolina.

AT&T spokesman Mark Siegel has commented, saying that Irene has had "no impact," on networks along the Florida coast.

"We are not going to predict what might or might not happen as the storm progresses," he added.

A Sprint spokeswoman has also stated that the network has not had any disruptions. However, they are waiting to see what happens as Irene passes through the Carolinas and approached the Mid-Atlantic area.

Carriers are recommending that users aim to utilize other forms of communication, such as texting, email and social networking, in order to keep networks from crashing due to an overflow of voice calls.

"During an emergency situation, text messages may go through more quickly than voice calls because they require fewer network resources," AT&T said in a statement.