The impact of the historic flooding in Louisiana this month has been staggering. At least four people have been killed and tens of thousands more displaced by the Amite River floodwaters that continue to batter the region relentlessly. President Barack Obama has declared the parishes of Tangipahoa, St. Helena, East Baton Rouge, and Livingston disaster areas. And to make matters worse, hourslong cell service outages have hampered relief. In the midst of the grim news, though, some are helping in ways they can. On Monday, T-Mobile announced a text-based donation drive in partnership with the American Red Cross.
Texting a donation is a straightforward affair. T-Mobile customers can place a charge atop their monthly bill — $10, by default — for the Red Cross’s ongoing effort by sending the word “LAFLOODS” to 90999. The Red Cross is helping at least 4,700 people in emergency centers across Louisiana, the agency said in a press release Sunday.
“This is a difficult time for thousands of families,” T-Mobile chief John Legere said in a statement. “Our thoughts, prayers, and support are with them and all the first responders.”
T-Mobile isn’t the only carrier extending a helping hand. Verizon has designated four of its brick-and-mortar stores as “rest areas” — the outlets at College Drive, Lafayette-Louisiana Avenue, New Iberia, and Baton Rouge Town Center are offering free calls, internet access, and device charging stations to victims of the flooding. “Our local stores are open to help you through these difficult times, whether you’re our customers or not,” Verizon said in a tweet. “We’ve got your back, even if we’re not your carrier.”
The outreach comes in the midst of extended AT&T downtime. On Sunday morning, many AT&T mobile customers woke up to no cellular service, an ongoing problem Lance Skelly, AT&T’s director of communications, attributed to weather-related damage equipment damage. “[One of the] switching centers that carries network traffic in the Baton Rouge area is flooded,” he told the region’s News Channel 10. “Our restoration work continues around the clock to restore service for affected customers. As progress is made during these efforts, service will return for some customers and others may continue to experience intermittent service.”
AT&T has deployed portable generators, mobile cell antennas, and emergency communications vehicles to supplement service in the meantime. It’s working with the Louisiana State Police to erect 11 temporary towers, in addition, and said that its technicians will begin repairs as soon as conditions allow. “We are monitoring our network closely and will continue to coordinate with local officials and utility companies,” Scully said.
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