A gopher apparently chewed through a fiber optic cable Saturday, cutting 911 and long distance phone service to about 6,800 US WEST customers here.

"We think it's a gopher chew," said Deborah Sedillo Dugan, U.S. West spokeswoman in Albuquerque.The 1/2-inch thick cable was buried 4 feet underground. The break occurred just north of Portales, 20 miles from the Texas border.

The cut cable also blacked out, for a brief period, communication between the airport in Clovis and the Albuquerque International Airport. Sedillo Dugan said cell phones were used to direct planes flying between the two cities during that time.