News

Hyde County sets meeting tomorrow on island economic loss

Ocracoke NC power outage 2017

A lone sunbather is the only customer on a beautiful Wednesday afternoon at the Ocracoke Day Use beach. Photo: C. Leinbach

Aug. 3, 2017 1:30 p.m.

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By Connie Leinbach

Hyde County wants to get out in front of any class action lawsuits and gather information on the total economic loss to the island.

Hyde County Manager Bill Rich has called a community meeting tomorrow morning at 10 a.m. in the Community Center open to all—businesses, individuals and employees—affected by the power outage to Hatteras and Ocracoke islands last Thursday after PLC Constructors accidentally severed the main transmission lines near the base of Bonner Bridge across Oregon Inlet.

Cape Hatteras Electric Cooperative has been working around the clock since to restore these main cables that power the islands.

The empty parking lot at the Lifeguard Beach on Ocracoke. Photo: C. Leinbach

As of this morning, CHEC announced that an overhead solution—splicing cable from one end of the Bonner Bridge to the other to connect the power lines—was completed and they are now making sure the full load of 115,000 volts of electricity will hold.

“We’re cautiously optimistic we will be able to open at 5 a.m. Saturday,” Rich said today.

Volunteer Robin Turner talks to customer Art Mines Wednesday in the Village Thrift. Photo: C. Leinbach

As for obtaining some kind of compensation from PCL, the company that is rebuilding the Bonner Bridge, Rich said he will be using all resources available to the county including personnel.

“”I’m asking that community members have patience,” Rich said said about the information-gathering effort. “In my opinion, the best case scenario is to negotiate a full restitution with PCL. If we gather up all of our information and go to the table with PCL, we could negotiate a fair restitution rather than a nasty class-action lawsuit that could take years to resolve.”

PCL has already accepted liability for the severing of the main electric cable that powers Hatteras and Ocracoke islands, he said.

“This is the easiest way to keep it as uncomplicated as possible,” he said. “I want to take the high road.  “It won’t cost businesses or individuals anything to try this route.”

On Monday, a class-action lawsuit was filed in Dare County Superior Court, and lawyers have already talked to some islanders about recourse.

Island Impressions on Back Road is among the few businesses open on Ocracoke. Photo: C. Leinbach

“If someone commits to a class-action lawsuit, you’re committed,” he said.

Rich will ask the county Board of Commissioners during the regular monthly meeting Aug. 7 to allow his office full time work on this issue and latitude and flexibility “to make sure we get to the finish line first and on the best possible horse.”

Since this power outage was not a result of a natural occurrence, FEMA help is not an option, and private insurance companies are, at this point, paying only for the time vacationers have lost out because of the mandatory evacuation.

Rich said Gov. Roy Cooper is personally looking into all of the state avenues to help obtain compensation for the island.  Also helping are the state attorney general’s office and the Dept. of Transportation.

He also said he has asked Senator Richard Burr and Congressman Walter Jones in Washington, D.C., to help, such as determine if there are small-business loans or means to give some form of mortgage payment relief to islanders.

“I’ve asked them to have their aides look everywhere—in every closet—to see if there’s any (federal support) out there to help us,” he said.

All vacationers were ordered off the islands after a state of emergency and mandatory evacuations were declared for Hatteras and Ocracoke.

Both CHEC and Tideland EMC have provided limited power with generators for residents in the affected areas, but these portable generators do not have the capacity for the full complement of summer visitors.

Ocracoke Lighthouse July 2017 C. Leinbach

The Ocracoke lighthouse has no visitors during the evacuation. Photo: C. Leinbach