Thousands of area residents woke up Wednesday morning and quickly realized they were outside their comfort zones. They could not watch the morning news on their televisions. They couldn't access the Internet on their computers, tablets or cell phones. No Facebook, no Twitter, no email.
In our modern world, this is enough to set people's teeth on edge. Thousands of local Suddenlink Communications customers started Wednesday - a beautiful, sunny day - with a bad attitude.
What caused their cable, Internet and landline telephone service outages? Was it a bad storm outside our area that brought lines down? Was it a technical glitch Suddenlink was experiencing?
Nope. It was the world's dumbest copper thieves.
The service disruption "was very likely the result of copper thieves" who cut two lines in the Rich Mountain area of Beverly, according to a press release Suddenlink sent out Wednesday afternoon.
Suddenlink technicians found two cuts in a fiberoptic line described as "a major artery" of the company's cable system. Officials suspect that the cuts were made by copper bandits, stealing the wire to strip it down, remove the copper and sell it to make an illegal profit.
There was only one problem for the thieves: fiberoptic cable lines don't contain copper.
But these thieves were determined to bring home the gold... er, copper. Suddenlink employees believe that after the crooks sliced open the fiberoptic cable and discovered there was no copper inside, they sliced into a telephone line, Senior Trooper S.E. Hevener with the Elkins detachment of the West Virginia State Police said Wednesday.
Telephone lines do contain copper, so the thieves will apparently have something to sell.
"We're looking at scrap yards to see if anyone turns in anything suspicious," Hevener remarked. "Anyone who has seen any suspicious vehicles in the area is asked to call the state police." The Elkins detachment may be reached by dialing 304-637-0200.
We sincerely hope these criminals will be caught and prosecuted to the full extent of the law. The outage merely inconvenienced most of us, but some elderly residents depend on their landline phones as their only means of calling for help in an emergency. To have that essential service taken away from them just because Tweedle Dum and Tweedle Dumber wanted to steal some copper infuriates us.
Also, anyone thinking copper thievery is an easy way to make a buck should take note: this is a dangerous crime.
Copper theft is "very dangerous," Randolph County Sheriff Mark Brady said after copper wire was stolen from the radio tower at Rich Mountain last year. "The money they can make for the copper is what tempts them do it, but people have gotten electrocuted doing things like that."
Copper thievery also strikes us as a case of high risk for little reward. Last year two Randolph County men were arrested and charged with breaking into the AES Laurel Mountain Windmills property and stealing copper ground leads. Each of the men was charged with four felonies. And how much did they make for selling the copper? A grand total of $311.10.
If this is a "get-rich-quick scheme" the people who buy into it aren't just criminals. They must also be idiots.