July 28, 2017 8:33 p.m.
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By Connie Leinbach
Two temporary two-megawatt generators arrived from Jacksonville, Fla., on Ocracoke this afternoon and when they are turned on, each of the three island electric grids will have constant power, Donnie Shumate, Hyde County public information officer, said Friday.
However, residents will still be prohibited from turning on HVAC systems, he said.
“Only refrigerators and fans can be on,” said Shumate, who is based in Swan Quarter. “HVAC and other resource-intensive systems are prohibited from being turned on at this time.”
Damage to the power line to Hatteras and Ocracoke is still being assessed.
The power went out to Hatteras and Ocracoke islands at 4:30 Thursday morning when PCL Construction, the contractors building the new Bonner Bridge, drove a piling through the underground cable between the southern end of Bonner Bridge at the Oregon Inlet and the first riser pole on Hatteras Island.
Shumate said in a press release engineers have arrived at the damaged portion of the main transmission line, and are assessing the state of the system.
“Excavation crews began digging down to the line at around 1 p.m. and are making good progress towards reaching the line,” Shumate said. “A trench box has been set and a dewatering system is in place to allow crews to dig the final two to three feet out.
“Light sources have been brought in for the crews working, and they will continue to work through the night.”
A message from Tideland at 8:40 tonight said engineers and splicing experts should be able to get their first look at it tonight.
A spokeswoman for PCL said today that the company is working with NCDOT and Cape Hatteras Electric to assist in restoring power as quickly as possible. “This is an active investigation,” said Stephanie McCay. “Once we expose the line and inspect the damage, we will be able to determine the cause.”
At the state level, officials are doing all they can to help Ocracoke regain full electric power as soon as possible.
Gov. Roy Cooper today urged authorities to work quickly to restore power to Hatteras and Ocracoke Islands following the major outage that occurred here early Thursday morning.
“The situation is stabilizing today thanks to the use of additional portable generators,” Cooper said in a press release. “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.”
A one-megawatt portable generator from Raleigh was delivered to the island Thursday night and at 3:30 this morning delivered power to the lighthouse area of the island along Lighthouse and Loop roads, which is the smallest of the three circuits on the island
Tommy Hutcherson, Variety Store proprietor and who also is on the Ocracoke Advisory Control Group composed of officials and island stakeholders and which advises the Hyde County Commissioners on emergencies, sent an email saying this generator will rotate power on the two circuits currently off-line.
The anticipated initial rotation will be four hours on and four hours off. A rotation schedule should be available by 10 p.m. tonight.
He said the transfer switch for generator No. 3 is in route to the island but will not arrive until 2 or 3 a.m. Saturday.
“Tideland is hopeful to have this generator up and running by early afternoon on Saturday,” he said. “Once it is running and there are not any glitches with any generators positioned on the island, we will be on full generated power with no interruptions. This is a hope and not a promise as many unforeseen incidents have occurred since we lost main power.”
On Thursday, the Hyde County Board of Commissioners issued a mandatory evacuation of all non-residents effective at 5 p.m. This is to conserve power once generators are working.
Only individuals who are Ocracoke residents, seasonal residents, non-resident property owners,
Vendors and emergency personnel who display a valid re-entry pass, or who possess some form of documentation proving residency and/or employment, will be allowed access to the island.
In the meantime, those restaurants and businesses with generators are open. That includes Ocracoke Oyster Company, the Flying Melon, Howard’s Pub, the Back Porch, the Ocracoke Bar & Grille, Zillies Island Pantry and the Ocracoke Station.
SmacNally’s and Sorellas Pizza and Pasta were among the closed eateries until full power can be restored.
Manager Daniela Gilbert said her Smac’s generator is only hooked up to the walk-in freezer and the refrigerator.
Ann Warner, Howard’s Pub owner, and Daphne Bennink, owner of the Back Porch, said they are open tonight and taking it day-to-day.
“We were open yesterday and are today,” said Bob Chestnut, owner of Ride the Wind Surf Shop.
Mermaid’s Folly also is closed, said Mickey Baker, co-owner. Both proprietors said their businesses were having a record year until Thursday’s power outage.
“We were going 100 miles per hour, then zero miles per hour yesterday,” Baker said.
Baker, who is active in resisting offshore drilling in the Atlantic, said there’s a direct correlation between what happened with this power outage and what could happen with offshore drilling, despite companies’ claims that technology is better now.
“Human error will always do something,” Baker said. “And this is the proof. A human cut the cord to our economy.”
The island knows when hurricanes are coming and can prepare, she said.
“But then they dry up and we go back to business,” she said. “This we didn’t see coming. We’re at the mercy of PCL. This issue is income in July, which is our most important month.”
Baker visited the Ocracoke Volunteer Fire Company, who had opened to the public today at 8 a.m. as a cooling and charging station, where she charged her electronic devices.
“They were all jammed this morning,” Baker said. “They’ve been so gracious.”
Under the evacuation order, tolls and reservations for the Swan Quarter and Cedar Island ferries are waived, and spots are on a first-come, first-served basis.
Under the state of emergency and evacuation order, any individual who fails to leave an evacuated area shall be guilty of a Class 2 misdemeanor, in accordance with N.C.G.S. 14-288.20A.
All renters should be aware that, pursuant to Article 6 of Chapter 42A-36 of the North Carolina General Statues, travel insurance claims may be made when a claimant is complying with a mandatory evacuation. Renters should contact their travel insurance policy provider after evacuating from the island.
As of 4 p.m. today, the Ferry Division reported that they had evacuated 3,406 people and 1,316 cars.