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This story was updated at 5:12 p.m. on Wednesday, March 4, 2020, with more information.

Texts and cell phone calls that travel from one side of your house to the other using Verizon in Chattanooga take a lightning-quick detour through a switching center near Nashville.

That's why devastating tornadoes that tore through Middle Tennessee in the small hours of Tuesday knocked out cell service for many people in the Chattanooga area, said a Verizon spokeswoman.

"All voice, text and data traffic for our customers in Chattanooga runs through our Nashville-area switching center," Kate Jay said. "That information is carried from our cell sites in Chattanooga via fiber to the Nashville area before ultimately reaching their final destination. Cell sites are connected to our core network, which is housed at mobile switching centers across the country."

By Wednesday afternoon, Verizon service had been restored in the Chattanooga area, Jay said.

"We have been working with our fiber vendor 24/7 on restoration, which was slowed by downed power poles that needed to be replaced before crews could gain access to begin that repair," she said. "The fiber repairs began overnight and continued in earnest today."

Verizon sent 16 satellite cell units on trucks around the Chattanooga area, and 26 satellite trailers to help to provide cell coverage to areas experiencing interruptions, she said.

"We were also working on adding a microwave network, which will temporarily replace the role of the damaged fiber cables until the damage is fixed," Jay said.

Verizon was one of many service providers scrambling to recover from the storms that hit while many were sleeping Tuesday morning. At least 24 people were killed, some in their beds, authorities said.

TVA counted 30 transmission towers down in the region, and crews began working quickly to clear downed lines from roads and the Cumberland River, said Scott Fiedler, a spokesman for the power provider.

"We've had lines crossing Interstate-40 and lines going across the Cumberland River that needed to be cleaned up," he said. "We're pulling in all the necessary resources in order to work safely and get the electricity flowing again."

TVA spokesman Josh Clendenen is based in Nashville and was in the field Wednesday with crews working to assess and repair the damage.

"We're seeing hundreds and hundreds of broken local power company poles, homes that are destroyed," he said. "Even once the power comes back on, there will still be the daunting task of cleaning up. Getting the power flowing will be just one piece of it."

EPB sent six people to assist with the work on Tuesday, said spokesman J.Ed. Marston.

"It's standard operating process between utilities to provide mutual aid, and what that means is that obviously people's staffing levels go way high when the system has been disrupted and a lot of repairs need to be made," he said. "We sent two crews yesterday to Nashville to assist with the recovery."

Contact Mary Fortune at mfortune@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6653. Follow her on Twitter at @maryfortune.

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