The High Desert lost emergency telephone service for five hours on Tuesday.

The disruption occurred when a Verizon fiber optic cable was severed near Historic Route 66 and Lenwood Road in Barstow.

"It was a contractor -- not one of our contractors -- doing some work and they dug where they weren't supposed to," said company spokesman Jon Davies.

The cable carried phone traffic between the High Desert and communities outside the region.

The disruption was noticed immediately, according to Davies.

"We monitor the network around the clock," he said. "Our first priority obviously was to get 9-1-1 re-routed, and that was complete by 1 p.m."

Local emergency officials and the media were contacted and alternative telephone numbers announced to the public while the company moved the High Desert's 9-1-1 telephone traffic to a different channel before splicing the severed fiber optic cable back together.

"Everything was back [to normal] as of Tuesday at 3:24 p.m.," Davies said.

Beau Yarbrough can be reached at 956-7108 or at beau@hesperiastar.com.