Hundreds of utility linemen and technicians scrambled to restore power Sunday after twisters left more than a half million households and businesses without electricity.
Progress Energy handled the bulk of the emergency work, deploying more than 1,000 workers over a 150-mile area spanning 27 counties. The storm caused outages from Asheboro through the Triangle and as far east as Wilmington and into South Carolina. The Raleigh-based electric company trucked in crews from its Asheville region and also received assistance from Duke Energy, based in Charlotte.
Much of the power was restored over the weekend, but about 60,000 remained in the dark late Sunday. The most devastated areas - in eastern Wake County as well as parts of Johnston, Lee and Sampson counties - are not expected to be restored until late Tuesday.
Progress said the powerful tornadoes destroyed 30 of the company's high-voltage transmission towers, the largest of the structures that carry electricity from power plants to electrical substations. Progress is re-routing power in some areas and will bring in helicopters to haul in replacements for the 150-foot-tall pylons.
Tornadoes also toppled trees into neighborhood power lines and snapped scores of utility poles.
"We had some areas, particularly around Clinton, where crews reported the poles and wires were nowhere to be found," said Progress spokesman Mike Hughes. "In some places, we're literally having to rebuild the system."
A quarter of Progress customers in North Carolina lost power, with a total of 300,000 outages reported Saturday in the Carolinas. Duke Energy lost power to more than 100,000 customers in North Carolina and South Carolina, with fewer than 200 in North Carolina waiting to be restored Sunday.
North Carolina's 26 rural electric cooperatives also reported 100,000 customers without power at one point.
Fayetteville, Wilson, High Point and other municipal power agencies lost power to about 5,000 customers.
Time Warner Cable reported that more than 50,000 of its customers lost TV and Internet service, but most of the outages were caused by lack of power. Some of the outages were caused by storm damage to utility poles that carry the company's fiber-optic cables.
The heaviest-hit areas suffered widespread damage affecting the majority of electricity customers.
The South River Electric Membership Corp., based in Dunn, lost power to about 80 percent of its 42,000 customers Saturday. Nearly 10,000 were still without power Sunday.
The rural electric cooperative buys most of its electricity from Progress and sells power to customers in five counties, including Harnett, Sampson and Johnston.
About half the 20,000 customers of the Central Electric Membership Corp. lost their power during the storm, with 4,700 still out on Sunday. Central Electric, based in Sanford, provides power in five counties that include Chatham, Harnett and Lee.
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