UPDATE - 10:00 p.m. Wednesday, October 23

Century Link telephone and internet service was restored to Bitterroot Valley residents and business just before 6:00 p.m. on Wednesday evening.

A contractor working in Hamilton on Wednesday, October 23 accidentally cut through a fiber optic line that serves hundreds of customers in the Bitterroot Valley with telephone and internet service.

John Bemis, Marketing Manager for Century Link in Western Montana, said the outage occurred early Wednesday afternoon.

"Earlier this afternoon, we had a contractor in the area placing a sign and damaged one of our fiber optic cables in the Hamilton area, that affected service from Hamilton all the way to Darby," Bemis said. "We have rerouted emergency calls so that they do go to a local number."

Ravalli County Sheriff Chris Hoffman said emergency calls are being handled in Missoula.

"Right now, we've got our phones rolled over to Missoula County 9-1-1," Hoffman said. "The issue isn't if you can't get a hold of a 9-1-1 operator, the issue is we don't know how many of our citizens are out of service, and don't have a phone to call with if they need it. EMS was affected to the degree that a lot of calls were going directly into the hospital. The outages are widespread and sporadic at this time."

Bemis said work was underway Wednesday afternoon to repair the fiber optic line.

"We have technicians on the scene as we speak," Bemis said. "They're excavating and getting the cable exposed, and hope to have service restored by early this evening."