Gridlocked drivers overload cell phone towers

Tens of thousands of drivers, stuck in thousands of unmoving cars, frantically punching at their phones, have flooded many cell phone towers and made calling a hit and miss proposition in many places around metro Atlanta.

The problem is apparently one of volume, not network glitches, said AT&T spokesman, Lance Skelly. “We don’t have a notification about any outages. Our network looks okay. Right now, it just looks like a congestion issue.”

But it wasn’t just AT&T. Users of other wireless providers were also having trouble getting through – a sign that there were just too many people trying to use phones.

A statement issued by Verizon also labeled the problem one of overmatched capacity. Each cell phone tower has its limits. And many choke points in mid-afternoon were jammed with anxious, frustrated drivers – most of them packing cell phones.

Problems fetching children from the schools closing early only ratcheted up the volume of calls – and the frustration.

“Data and text connectivity has not been affected,” said Michael Swearington, Verizon spokesman. “We encourage customers to text first during times of emergency and to leave lines open for first responders.”