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AP

One of the big differences between Hurricane Sandy and Hurricane Harvey was the level of cellphone service customers were able to access during the storms.

The numbers: "25% of cell sites were down during Sandy compared to 5% down during Harvey," CTIA chief Meredith Attwell Baker said in an interview. "That's a significant resiliency improvement."

One company's response: T-Mobile COO Mike Sievert said that the company knows just how important cell phones are to its customers during a disaster and does everything it can — from hardening its network gear, to offering free service in the wake of disasters or delivering free phones to those whose phones are lost or damaged.

"It really matters to (customers) whether you can keep that service going," Baker said. "By and large we did."

More details:

  • Calling 911: Cell phones are critical for summoning help. An estimated 240 million 911 calls are made in the U.S. each year and in many areas 80% of calls come from wireless devices.
  • Power up: One of the big advantages with Harvey was the fact that, by and large, the power grid stayed up, lessening the need for cell towers to rely on generators.
  • Preparing for Irma: It looks like the damage could be worse from Irma, Sievert said. Baker told Axios' Kim Hart that the industry is learning with each disaster.
  • Early warning system: Baker also defends the wireless emergency alert system, which has been around since 2012 and warns customers ahead of floods and other potential threats. "Can they be better? Absolutely. And we'll continue to work with state and federal authorities on this to make them better and enhance them."
  • Improvements needed: One of the key wireless alert limitations is the ability to offer targeted, block-by-block warnings. Technology will continue to improve to allow for more granular targeting, Baker said.
  • Other upgrades: Carriers have improved network resiliency in the past decade by making sure equipment can withstand extreme weather and adding more robust battery backup in case of a power outage, according to Mike Jones of Burbank-based Advanced RF Technologies. The company provides signal repeaters to extend wireless signals to fill coverage gaps.

Go deeper

"Atmospheric river" swings Northern California from drought to flood

Satellite view of the bomb cyclone swirling off the coast of the Pacific Northwest and the atmospheric river affecting California on Oct. 24. Photo: CIRA/RAMMB

A series of powerful "atmospheric river" storms are delivering historic amounts of rainfall across parts of drought-stricken California and the Pacific Northwest.

Why it matters: The atmospheric river, packing large amounts of moisture, was causing Northern California to whiplash from drought to flood, as it slowly moved south overnight. It's triggered widespread power outages, flooding and mudslides.

Updated 1 hour ago - World

U.S. threatens to cut aid to Sudan after military takeover

Sudanese Prime Minister Abdallah Hamdok during a 2020 news conference in Khartoum, Sudan. Photo: Mahmoud Hjaj/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Sudan's civilian Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok was put under house arrest and several other ministers were detained Monday in what appears to be a military coup in the country, per local reports.

The latest: The head of the military faction of the Sudanese government, Gen. Abdul Fattah al-Burhan, said in a statement that he is announcing a state of emergency, suspending several parts of the interim constitution and dissolving the civilian government and interim sovereignty council — the highest governing body in the country.

Facebook's pivotal week

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

They're battening down the hatches at Facebook headquarters this week as the company faces a trifecta of tumult: a continuing wave of negative press coverage fueled by document leaks, a critical earnings report Monday and a reported name change looming.

The big picture: All this is unfolding as Mark Zuckerberg tries to transform Facebook from a social network into the prime mover behind a new "metaverse" of VR- and AR-driven remote work and play.