LITTLE ROCK, Ark.— UPDATE: Thanks to quick work of repair crews, cables have been replaced and the weather transmitter is back online as of Thursday morning.
The Pulaski County Sherriff’s Office is investigating after cables belonging to the National Weather Service’s transmitter site were stolen.
According to deputies, a group of individuals cut multiple cable lines Wednesday morning on Shinall Mountain.
“We’ve had the equipment maintained on our end– it should be working– but someone just stole the communication lines,” said Dennis Cavanaugh, the Warning Coordination Meteorologist for National Weather Service.
Cavanaugh says the transmitter alerts Arkansans in 17 different counties on their weather radios when severe weather strikes. However, once the cable was cut Wednesday morning, they have not been able to get a signal out.
“I’ve never heard of anyone stealing anything that put people’s lives in danger in a severe weather event, that’s a first for sure,” said Cavanaugh.
Cavanaugh says it could be several days before the signal is back up and the weather radios begin working again.
“This is knocking out a critical service for hundreds of thousands of people,” said Cavanaugh.
We spoke to a repairman working on one of the Shinall Mountain towers.
He says cable theft is not uncommon and believes individuals are stealing them to sell the copper found inside.
“They are doing just enough damage to cause a lot of headache,” said Troy Roberts with Ascend Tower. “Probably going to get a hundred dollars– maybe two– but it’s going to cost so many thousands to fix.”
Since it could be days before the cables are fixed, Cavanaugh hopes Arkansans find other ways to stay weather aware.
“If anything dangerous approaches Central Arkansas, I pray to God someone still gets the warning,” said Cavanaugh.
He says it is important that people have multiple ways they receive weather warnings, such as smart phones, social media, and TV’s.