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A vandal severed a critical AT&T fiber optic cable in Hopland on Thursday, disrupting Internet, landline and cellphone service across a broad swath of the North Coast, including much of Mendocino and Humboldt counties and parts of Sonoma and Lake counties.

AT&T, which owns the cable, said late Thursday that investigators determined the damage was caused by vandalism.

“Vandalism is a serious matter that affects public safety and the community at large,” Steven Ramirez, a regional spokesperson for AT&T, said. “We are cooperating with local law enforcement on an investigation of the matter. We apologize for this inconvenience.”

AT&T, Verizon, Sonic and U.S. Cellular customers were among those affected by the outage, which began Thursday morning and lasted deep into the night. Emergency 911 calls were being rerouted to offices that still had functioning communication lines, officials said.

The outage was expected to be repaired late Thursday night or early this morning.

“Technicians are on-site repairing the damage and will work around the clock until service is fully restored,” Ramirez said.

The FBI is searching for vandals blamed for cutting fiber optic lines in at least 11 different locations in the Bay Area over the past year, including Fremont, Walnut Creek, Alamo, Berkeley, San Jose and Livermore.

“The individuals may appear to be normal telecommunications maintenance workers or possess tools consistent with that job role,” the FBI said in a plea for public help issued in June.

In addition to Mendocino and Humboldt counties, southern Lake County and northern Sonoma County appeared to be affected by Thursday’s service outage, said state Sen. Mike McGuire, D-Healdsburg, who represents the region.

Seven 911 call centers were affected by the outage, McGuire said. The lawmaker said he was concerned that one damaged fiber optic cable could cause so much disruption for residents, businesses and other telecommunications companies.

“Multiple platforms have been impacted by this outage. It’s had significant impact on the communities of the North Coast,” McGuire said.

“I’m deeply concerned about how vulnerable the North Coast’s 911 system is. We’re going to get through this outage now, but we need a long-term fix to ensure that there is redundant 911 emergency phone service throughout California,” he said.

In Ukiah, some residents and businesses reported their cellphone and land-line service had been affected while others said theirs were not. Internet service appeared to be down in many places throughout the city.

The ATM at the Savings Bank of Mendocino County was not working while the one at the nearby Bank of America was unaffected.

At Ukiah Valley Medical Center, Internet and phone service was down for about an hour and hospital staff were forced to conduct patient registration the old-fashioned way, with pen and paper, during that period.

Customers at the Mendocino Book Company in downtown Ukiah still were able to use their credit cards, though bookstore employees had to use credit card imprint devices. Book orders were taken by hand.

“We’ll just wait until it comes back on to finish making the orders,” said Toni Wheeler, a Mendocino Book Company employee.

Nearby at the Three Sisters boutique shop, owner Leslie Batz said she was not able to process credit cards at all.

“Cash and checks is all I can do right now,” she said.

Ken Chapman, the owner of Habitat, a home furnishings store, said he was able to make phone calls but some were being routed to the wrong people.

While there were complaints, some Ukiah residents said the city had a quieter feeling.

McGuire said his office would be in contact throughout the night with both the state Office of Emergency Services and AT&T representatives to make sure services are restored as soon as possible.

Calls to the Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office dispatch center were not going through about noon Thursday. Calls to other lines in the Sheriff’s Office were errantly going to a real estate office in Benicia, where representatives said they’d received hundreds of calls Thursday.

Cal Fire officials said they were handling emergency calls for police departments in Fort Bragg, Willits and Ukiah.

AT&T provided no information about the number of telecommunications customers affected by the severed fiber optic cable.

A Verizon representative confirmed that wireless customers were among those affected.

“We are currently experiencing technical problems with our network in parts of Mendocino and Sonoma counties due to another carrier’s landline fiber cut,” Verizon Wireless spokeswoman Heidi Flato said in an email.

Flato said Verizon Wireless services were impacted in a number of North Coast towns, including Ukiah, Willits, Boonville, Yorkville, Calpella, Hopland and Cloverdale, as well as in some areas around Clear Lake.

“Verizon Wireless technicians are working with the landline operator to restore the service as quickly as possible,” Flato said.

Sonic CEO Dane Jasper said the fiber cable cut affected his company’s customers, as well as those of Mendocino Community Network and Pacific Internet.

Jeremiah Layman, a senior network field engineer for U.S. Cellular in Northern California, said the severed cable affected a line used to route calls from the company’s cellular sites. U.S. Cellular engineers are working with AT&T to fix the issue and restore coverage, he said.

Crews were on scene in Hopland to work on a repair, McGuire said on his Twitter account.

You can reach Staff Writer Martin Espinoza at 521-5213 or martin.espinoza@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @renofish. You can reach Staff Writer Glenda Anderson at 462-6473 or glenda.anderson@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @MendoReporter.

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