Fast Repairs Needed Following Outer Banks Power Outage

Bonner Bridge over Oregon Inlet. Source: Office of the Governor, Raleigh NC, 2016
Bonner Bridge over Oregon Inlet. Source: Office of the Governor, Raleigh NC, 2016

On Friday, July 28, 2017, Governor Roy Cooper urged authorities to work quickly to restore power to Hatteras and Ocracoke Islands in North Carolina following the major outage that occurred there yesterday afternoon.

“The situation is stabilizing today thanks to the use of additional portable generators,” Governor Cooper said. “Public safety services have power as do water and sewer. I ask residents and visitors to be patient as everyone works towards restoring the power and getting conditions back to normal on Hatteras and Ocracoke Islands. Conserving power is crucial until that time comes.”

Yesterday, the Governor declared a State of Emergency and waived weight and hours of service restrictions [for equipment movement] in response to the power outages on Hatteras Island in Dare County and Ocracoke Island in Hyde County. The declaration enabled the rapid movement of portable generators into the affected areas, and helped ensure critical public safety power needs such as police, fire and EMS were met.

The power outage is believed to have happened when a transmission line was cut during construction on the Bonner Bridge. If the contractor is found to have caused the power outage, then it would likely be responsible for any costs and damages related to the repair as determined by the electric company.

NC Emergency Management and NC Department of Transportation (DOT) officials are working closely with local officials to address the emergency situation caused by the power outage. This statement released by DOT on Friday:

The NC Department of Transportation Ferry Division today loaded two 90,000-pound electrical generators bound for Ocracoke Island aboard the Motor Vessel Sea Level.  The Tideland Electrical Membership Corporation is hoping to use the generators to restore temporary power to much of the island by this evening.

The Ferry Division has also scheduled regular fuel deliveries for the generators on the daily 7am and 1pm ferry departures out of Swan Quarter. Passengers and vehicles will also be allowed on those ferries, but space will be limited.

Meanwhile, the Ferry Division continues to assist in the mandatory evacuation of visitors from Ocracoke Island as ordered by Hyde County. As of early Friday afternoon, North Carolina Ferries had evacuated 2,386 people and 893 vehicles since the evacuation order was issued Thursday evening.

While the evacuation remains in place, priority loading at Hatteras and tolls at Swan Quarter and Cedar Island are waived. In accordance with the evacuation order, only residents, property owners, emergency workers, vendors and critical infrastructure providers with Ocracoke re-entry documentation will be allowed on Ocracoke-bound ferries. Law enforcement officers are on hand at Hatteras, Swan Quarter, and Cedar Island to enforce the re-entry requirements.

The electric cooperatives are assessing the damages to the power transmission line today and may possibly have a repair estimate available within the next day or so. The utilities and emergency management officials continue to stress the need for residents to conserve power.

Officials in Hyde County ordered a mandatory evacuation for visitors on Ocracoke Island effective 5pm Thursday. The evacuations have been ongoing since yesterday. Local officials have not issued evacuation orders for Hatteras Island as of Friday afternoon.

The NC Department of Transportation has a fueling plan scheduled to transport fuel to Ocracoke for the generators being used there and is trying to coordinate for low usage times. The State Highway Patrol and local law enforcement are stationed in Hatteras, Cedar Island and Swan Quarter to oversee Ocracoke’s reentry restrictions. As of late Friday afternoon, NCDOT’s Ferry Division had transported 2,300 people and about 890 vehicles off the island.

Dare County officials advise that all bridges and roads in Dare County are open to the public and that they have not restricted access to Hatteras Island and have not issued any evacuation orders. They add that while Hatteras has been impacted by the power outage, people should call their accommodation provider for guidance and the latest information. Authorities in Dare County are asking people not to use their air conditioning and to limit use of electricity.

“Ensuring the safety of residents and visitors is our primary concern, but we know the loss of power has a significant economic impact as well,” Gov. Cooper said. “Summer is the busiest time of year for our North Carolina coastal communities, and we know this outage is causing problems for locals, vacationers and businesses.”

People with plans to visit the Outer Banks can call 1-800-Visit NC for updated information that may impact their plans. People who have rented vacation properties on the islands are encouraged to contact their rental agency. For information about their rights as vacation renters, they can call the North Carolina Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division at 1-877-5-NO-SCAM within North Carolina or 919.716.6000 from out of state.

These health and safety tips for a power outage were released Friday. Take these steps to stay safe and healthy.

  • If you lose electricity, keep refrigerators and freezers closed.
  • Food that has stayed cold in the refrigerator without electricity should be eaten while it is still fresh.
  • Throw away food that has been without refrigeration for longer than four hours.
  • Frozen food that stays frozen or that partially thaws while remaining cold can be eaten or refrozen when power returns.
  • Conserve water if your septic system floods.
  • Boil water for three to five minutes if your water system lost pressure or your private well flooded or lost electricity.
  • If your well flooded, it will need to be disinfected once flood waters recede. Contact your local health department for assistance.

Follow Dare County Emergency Management on Twitter for updates.

 

Ed. Note: Information sourced from NC Office of the Governor (Ford Porter) and other NC agencies including DOT as noted.

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