Before You Dig a Hole...

By Sarah Snyder
NewsWest 9

It was only an accident but led to a big problem, all because someone dug a hole too deep. 

The phone line outages in Gaines and Andrews Counties on Thursday all started when a Midland County homeowner severed fiberoptic lines on their property. 

We wanted to know what the risks are for digging in your backyard.

"There can be many types of utilities that are underground other than electrical lines," ONCOR Area Manager Sue Mercer, said.

Water, sewer, electrical, and fiberoptic, there's a lot of lines and cables running just inches beneath your home or business and they get cut more often than you might think.

"Most of the areas are in subdivisions, but we also have downtown areas that are on networks," Mercer said.

If you're beginning a home improvement project and you plan on digging any deeper than 16 inches, you have to make a phone call first.

"If someone is going to dig, they have to call the 1-800 DIG TESS number," Mercer said.

If you don't call two days before you dig you could be fined if you hit a line. If you do call first and still hit a line, you won't be held responsible.

"You saw the impact yesterday as to how many people it can impact or affect when a small accident like that might happen," Mercer said.

Look for the large boxes, they indicate the epicenter, and lines could run underneath in any direction.

"In smaller situations, planting a tree, planting a shrub, usually more of the times that they don't recognize that they might have an underground line is setting posts for a fence. It's a very easy thing to do: setting posts for a car port, digging a hole to set a basketball goal," Mercer said.

And even if you see the lines overhead, don't let that fool you, there are still cables running underground that could easily be hit.

"It could be like yesterday, impact a large area for an extended period of time," Mercer said. "Of course, the worst damage could come with loss of life."