Lake Region Electric Cooperative officials said lightning may have been the cause for an internet outage Thursday evening that was restored quickly for many customers, but others weren't back online for several hours.

While Cherokee County was under a tornado watch for most of the afternoon and evening due to severe weather, many local businesses and residences — including the Tahlequah Daily Press — experienced an internet outage.

Hamid Vahdatipour, LREC CEO, said it was a possible a lightning strike knocked out the power to the utility's headquarters in Hulbert. The power outage at the LREC office happened after hours, so no one was in the building to respond immediately.

“It also affected the power transfer switch for the backup generator, and the generator failed to provide backup power to the building, Vahdatipour said. “We have a backup generator that is capable of powering all the computer equipment, servers, lights and most of the HVAC units.”

All computers and servers were supported with UPS battery backup power, and Vahdatipour said that can maintain the systems for an additional 30 minutes, if everything else fails.

“The storm also damaged the backup generator and kept it from coming in and maintaining the building. This left all the servers and computers at the mercy of the battery backups, which worked well, but only for about 30 minutes,” he said.

Crews weren’t able to restore power to the building within that 30 minutes, and that shut the entire system down.

“This affected the internet and TV service for nearly 7,000 customers. LREC's phone system, the billing, and outage management systems were also shut down,” said Vahdatipour. “Once we restored power to the building, we started bringing the servers online and restoring all services by about 10 p.m.”

Officials said customers’ services should have been restored Thursday evening, but there may be some modems or routers that didn’t automatically reconnect after the system came back online.

“If so, they need to call us and we will help them through the problem. We also had to replace three broken poles due to the storm last night. It was a busy night for the entire crew at LREC and LRTC,” said Vahdatipour.

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