Editor’s note: this story has been updated.
Electric power is expected to return to Hatteras and Ocracoke islands by Saturday – possibly as early as Friday – and renters could follow right behind.
Dorothy Hester, spokeswoman for Dare County, said the county will coordinate with the power company to determine when visitors can return. Once power is restored and testing is complete to ensure everything is working properly, N.C. 12 will be reopened to traffic.
“Our goal is to get our visitors back as soon as possible,” Hester said. “It’s so tough. We’re taking so many calls from folks who are on pins and needles wanting to know what to do. Our businesses down there need them to come back. We’re going to allow that entry just as soon as we possibly can.”
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In what should have been a no-vacancy summer week, Ocracoke and Hatteras islands have been quiet as a rainy day in January as business owners wait for power to be restored and mandatory evacuation orders to be lifted. All tourists were ordered off the islands last week after PLC Construction accidentally severed the main transmission lines near the base of Bonner Bridge across Oregon Inlet. Cape Hatteras Electric Cooperative has been working to restore full power ever since, and has provided limited power with generators to sustain those who live in the areas affected.
This morning, CHEC announced on its Facebook page that workers continue to have trouble with water seeping in the area where the underground cable break is located, but said work on an overhead line is making progress.
“The restoration timeframe from this point forward is 3-5 days,” the company said. “This includes the time required for testing after all construction is complete and before transmission service can begin. CHEC is also working with Dare County officials to coordinate the safe return of visitors as soon as possible.”
Typically, tourism officials say, the beach towns on Hatteras Island should have about 50,000 visitors this time of year. Ocracoke would normally have about 10,000.
Many of them have been calling their rental companies once or twice a day for guidance on whether they might be able to salvage part of this week’s rental. Others want to know if it will be safe to come on Saturday or Sunday for the week coming up.
Donnie Shumate, spokesman for Hyde County, said ferry operators are on standby and are prepared to start hauling visitors to Ocracoke Island as soon as the evacuation order is lifted.
“It’s looking better and better,” Shumate said.
“As soon as they lift the evacuation order, we’re ready for people,” said Ella Belch, desk clerk at the Pony Island Motel in Ocracoke. “We’re ready for them as soon as they can get here.”
Belch said she is worried that even if the power is restored as early as Saturday, the Pony Island Motel will lose its weekend business.
“Our weekend guests usually come in on Friday,” she said. “And they can’t wait forever to make plans. They will go somewhere else.”