Verizon will assess Tropical Storm Barry damage with drones

Verizon said it was ready to keep communications open as the wind and rain of Tropical Storm Barry began reaching the Gulf Coast Friday.

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The company said it made numerous preparations ahead of the storm, including equipment inspections, staging fleets of portable emergency equipment and setting up storm command centers. Also, Verizon said that it has prepared surveillance drones to help assess damage after the storm.

Verizon said it has used drones to assess storm damage ever since Hurricane Matthew in 2016 when it checked if a cell site was safe to refuel. Using drones after a storm has cleared allows the company to more quickly inspect cell towers for damage.

In that first case after Matthew, Verizon said it would have normally taken days to get the cell site refueled and back on the air. Instead, it only took a few hours for the team to reach it by boat and get it running again.

The company said drone damage assessment is part of its commitment to keeping residents and first responders connected as a storm hits.

“Running to a crisis and seeing a community through is fundamental to who we are,” Verizon CTO Kyle Malady said. “We have been preparing our network and are ready to support those in the path of Tropical Storm Barry.”

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The storm could grow in strength by the time forecasters expect it to make landfall Saturday. The National Weather Service has issued a hurricane warning for a portion of the Louisiana coast, as well as a storm surge warning for parts of Louisiana and Mississippi.

Forecasters said they expect Barry’s slow movement will drench the region with rain that could lead to flooding through early next week.