Outer Banks Power Outage May Take 2 Weeks to Fix

The local economy relies heavily on the summer tourist season

It may take one or two weeks to restore power to two North Carolina Outer Banks islands, a power official said in an update Monday.

A dreamy summer vacation turned into a messy, sweaty nightmare for 10,000 tourists on the Outer Banks when the power went off and air conditioners stopped humming, and officials ordered visitors to leave Friday.

People and cars lined up to get on ferries, the only way off Ocracoke Island. Gas stations ran perilously low on fuel and ice. Workers at a cafe improvised by using flashlights to make sausage biscuits on a gas stove and people searched for anything cold to eat or drink in the thick, humid air.

"There's a lot of hot, sweaty people here," said Erica Plouffe Lazure, of New Hampshire.

Crews are taking two approaches to restore power to Hatteras and Ocracoke islands.

Three cables were damaged Thursday by a construction company building a new bridge parallel to the current one. PCL Construction accidentally drove a steel casing into an underground transmission cable.

The power went out about 4:30 a.m. Thursday. Officials said about 9,000 customers were without power on the two islands — about 7,700 on Hatteras and another 1,300 on Ocracoke.

Cape Hatteras Electric Cooperative spokeswoman Laura Ertle said in a statement Monday that crews are digging up damaged cables to splice together. The utility also is looking at an overhead transmission line from the Bonner Bridge to existing lines on Hatteras Island.

Ertle said crews are working on both plans until it's clear which is fastest and safest. She says depending on the approach, repairs could take one to two weeks.

Gov. Roy Cooper was set to visit the bridge on Monday.

Cooper declared a state of emergency as generators were sent to the islands. Officials urged people to use them only for fans and refrigerators so that they would not overload them.

The islands, which have about 5,000 permanent residents, rely heavily on the summer tourist season for their local economies and business owners worried about how long they would be shuttered.

Ann Warner, the owner of Howard's Pub on Ocracoke Island, said she has generator power, but business had dropped as tourists streamed off the island. Her restaurant would usually be packed for Friday lunch.

She and other business owners were upset at losing business at the peak of tourism season because of human error, as opposed to tropical weather such as a hurricane.

"This is a man-made disaster, and yes people are very upset," she said.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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