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BREAKING — Tens of thousands of tourists were ordered to evacuate 2 North Carolina islands due to a widespread power outage, wiping out a significant amount of the lucrative summer months for local businesses.

Authorities say that it could take days or even weeks to repair an underground transmission line damaged early Thursday by construction crews working on a new bridge between islands. The construction company drove a steel casing into an underground transmission line, causing blackouts on Ocracoke and Hatteras islands.


Cars lined up Friday to get on ferries, the only way off Ocracoke Island, after about 10,000 tourists were ordered Thursday evening to evacuate. A second order for visitors to Hatteras Island, south of Oregon Inlet, meant up to 60,000 additional people had to evacuate starting Saturday, primarily north over the inlet bridge.

Dare County spokeswoman Dorothy Hester had no estimate for how many people still needed to leave Hatteras Island.

“We realize people are disappointed. They brought a lot of stuff here. They’re packing up and moving out,” she said. “While disappointed, they’re going to make their way home.”

Roughly 80 percent of the islands’ tourism stems from vacation rentals, and the order coincides with the customary Saturday turnover for weekly home rentals, so those people would be leaving anyway. The big question is when visitors can get to homes already rented for upcoming weeks in the height of tourism season, said Lee Nettles, director of the Outer Banks Visitors Bureau.

While villages north of the bridge may benefit from some displaced tourists, others “got the message and are staying home,” he said.

The order barring inbound tourists did not apply to Hatteras Island’s roughly 6,000 year-round residents or to other property owners.

Gov. Cooper Signs State of Emergency for Hatteras, Ocracoke Islands

Governor Roy Cooper has signed a State of Emergency declaration and waived weight and hours of service restrictions due to a major power outage on Hatteras Island in Dare County and Ocracoke Island in Hyde County. The power outage was caused when a transmission line was cut while construction work was being carried out on the Bonner Bridge.

“This declaration will allow us to move much needed resources through the state as quickly as possible to help restore the power to Ocracoke and Hatteras Islands,” Governor Cooper said. 
Earlier today, Governor Cooper received the news that Hyde County had ordered a mandatory evacuation order for visitors on Ocracoke Island effective 5 p.m.

Executed under the Emergency Management Act, the State of Emergency declaration enables the governor to mobilize the necessary resources to respond to this severe power outage.
The executive order waives restrictions on weight and the hours of service for fuel, utility and other truck drivers that may be working to deliver supplies and other resources needed to restore power in the affected areas. The waiver is in effect until rescinded.

Mandatory Evacuation Order – Hatteras Island

Due to life safety issues from the loss of reliable electrical power on Hatteras Island and growing uncertainty as to when repairs to the main transmission line will be completed to enable restoration of full power to the island, a mandatory evacuation has been issued for all visitors to Hatteras Island, effective at 6 a.m. on Saturday, July 29. This evacuation order includes the villages of Rodanthe, Waves, Salvo, Avon, Buxton, Frisco and Hatteras.

Residents, non-resident property owners, essential personnel, and non-resident employees of non-critical businesses will be allowed entry with proper reentry credentials.

This evacuation order does not include any areas north of Oregon Inlet. All areas north of Oregon Inlet remain open with no restrictions in place.

The state of emergency issued for Hatteras Island earlier today included the implementation of mandatory power conservation measures that will remain in place. All Cape Hatteras Electric Cooperative (CHEC) customers must remove air conditioning systems and hot tub heaters from the power grid by turning off system circuit breakers. In addition, mandatory water restrictions have been issued prohibiting the filling of pools or hot tubs, the watering of lawns, and the watering of driveways or sidewalks for cleaning.   

Dare County Emergency Management will continue to work with Cape Hatteras Electric Cooperative to help facilitate the restoration of power to levels that will allow visitors to return. At this time there is no estimate regarding the timeline for full restoration of services. Updates regarding reentry for visitors will be provided as information is available.

People can also protect their own health and safety following a power outage. 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.

Sunday Morning Update:
Cape Hatteras Electric Cooperative (CHEC) continues restoration efforts in the wake of a transmission outage that was caused when PCL Construction accidently drove a steel casing into the cooperative’s underground transmission cable on Thursday morning, July 27.

A mandatory evacuation remains in effect for all visitors to Hatteras Island. CHEC will continue to supply temporary power to residents on the island through the Buxton diesel generators and portable generators until the transmission repairs are complete. The cooperative is also working to expand the temporary generation service on Hatteras Island, in order to accommodate the return of visitors.

PCL Construction, CHEC and New River Construction, the cooperative’s transmission contractor, excavated the site of the incident. CHEC’s transmission system is three-phase, meaning there are three individual cables buried on the south side of the bridge. Crews have exposed one of the cables, revealing that it was severed by the steel casing.

The cooperative ran tests to check the integrity of other two cables Saturday night and the testing data was analyzed overnight. The test revealed that all three transmission cables have been compromised.

CHEC has called in additional resources to further assess the situation. The cooperative has multiple options for both temporary and permanent repair solutions.

CHEC appreciates the continued support of officials from local and state agencies, including Governor Cooper’s office. The cooperative appreciates the continued patience and encouragement from both our members and visitors.

Fire Safety During Power Outage

  • Unless they have battery back-ups, electrically-connected smoke alarms and carbon monoxide alarms will not work when the power is out. Test the batteries in all smoke and carbon monoxide alarms.
  • Use flashlights or battery-operated lanterns instead of candles. If using candles, keep them away from children and pets. Extinguish all candles when you leave the room or go to bed.  NEVER leave a candle unattended.
  • Do not use propane and charcoal barbecues indoors. They should only be used outside.
  • Portable generators should only be used outdoors and carefully located to ensure that exhaust fumes do not enter the home. Allow the generator to cool before refueling. Refuel the generator outside, following the manufacturer’s instructions. Store fuel for the generator in approved containers, outside the home.
  • To prevent fires from occurring when the electricity is restored, make sure electric stove elements and small appliances are OFF or unplugged.

Fox News reports that business owners were upset that the disaster was caused by human error, not Mother Nature.

“It’s a hard pill to swallow that someone forgot where the power cable was,” said Jason Wells, owner of Jason’s Restaurant on Ocracoke Island. “How do you forget where the power cable is?”

Wells said his restaurant, closed by the outage, is missing out on at least $5,000 a day in sales. He said many seasonal businesses close for one-third of the year, making the summer months essential to their bottom lines. His 25 workers typically make between $75 and $250 a day.

“So when you take this hit in July and factor in that you’re only open eight months out of the year, it’s big,” he said. “It’s a lot more than people even realize.”

He estimated that total losses for shops, hotels and restaurants on the island could easily top $100,000 per day.


What a nightmare.

God Bless.


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