Duke Energy is warning that the destruction and power outages from Hurricane Florence could exceed the damage wrought by Hurricane Matthew, which submerged entire towns in eastern North Carolina in 2016.
Charlotte-based Duke, which supplies power to 3.2 million North Carolina customers through Duke Energy Carolinas and Duke Energy Progress, issued a statement Monday saying that it could take several weeks to restore power to the hardest-hit areas after Florence churns across the state.
The company said Florence could wreak more damage than Matthew, the storm that knocked out power to 1.5 million Duke customers and cost about $125 million to restore power lines, repair substations and replace other waterlogged equipment.
“We’re anticipating significant widespread outages based on a storm of this magnitude,” said spokeswoman Meredith Archie.
And Duke represents only a portion of the exposure North Carolina faces. Another 1.6 million customers get their power from about 100 rural electric cooperatives and municipal power agencies in the state, which supply electricity to smaller communities throughout North Carolina, many of them sitting in Florence’s projected path.
Duke and the small-town power providers are deploying emergency work crews to start restoring power as soon as conditions are safe. In some areas it may take several weeks for flood waters to recede before crews can enter to start restoration work.
Duke has 4,600 linemen, tree crew workers and others ready for action. The power company is bringing in 800 more workers from its territories in Florida and the Midwest. Duke expects additional muscle from hundreds of workers lent by neighboring utility companies, through the Southeaster Electric Exchange mutual aid program. The rural co-ops and municipal power agencies also participate in emergency assistance programs with regional organizations.
After Hurricane Matthew drenched the state in 2016, Duke Energy Progress had to rebuild sections of its power grid; the effort involved restringing nearly 300 miles of downed wire and replacing 5,500 utility poles knocked over by the storm, The N&O reported in 2017.
The cost of the repairs is considered part of Duke’s normal cost of operation and maintenance, and whatever amount Duke passes on to its customers must be approved by the N.C. Utilities Commission. The damage from hurricanes can be so extensive that Duke recoups the cost from customers by spreading out recovery over the course of many years, said James McLawhorn, who directs the Electric Division of the N.C. Public Staff, a state agency that represents the public in utility rate matters.
Duke customers will be able to report outages by texting the word OUT to 57801. But the phone sending the text must be associated with the home or business account to be recognized by location. Customers can go online this week to enter their cell phone numbers into their accounts.
Or customers can call directly to report outages.
Who to call if the power goes out
Duke Energy customers:
▪ Duke Energy Progress: 1-800-419-6356.
▪ Duke Energy Carolinas: 1-800-769-3766 (1-800-POWER-ON)
NC Electric Cooperatives customers:
▪ Brunswick Electric (Bladen, Brunswick, Columbus and Robeson): 800-682-5309
▪ Cape Hatteras Electric (Dare): 866-511-9862
▪ Carteret-Craven Electric (Carteret, Craven, Jones and Onslow): 252-247-3107 or 800-682-2217
▪ Central Electric (Chatham, Harnett, Lee, Moore and Randolph): 877-766-6769
▪ Edgecombe-Martin County EMC (Beaufort, Bertie, Edgecombe, Halifax, Martin, Nash, Pitt, and Wilson): 800-690-0657
▪ Four County EMC (Bladen, Columbus, Duplin, Onslow, Pender and Sampson): 888-368-7289
▪ Halifax EMC (Halifax, Martin, Nash and Warren): 800-690-0522
▪ Jones-Onslow EMC (Lenoir, Jones, Onslow, Duplin, Pender and Craven): 910-353-7117 or 800-682-1515
▪ Lumbee River EMC (Cumberland, Hoke, Robeson and Scotland): 800-683-5571 or 910-843-4131
▪ Piedmont Electric (Alamance, Caswell, Durham, Granville, Orange, Person and Chatham): 800-449-2667
▪ Pitt and Greene EMC (Edgecombe, Greene, Lenoir, Pitt, Wayne and Wilson): 800-622-1362 or 252-753-8778
▪ South River EMC (Bladen, Cumberland, Harnett, Johnston and Sampson): 888-338-5530 or 910-892-8071
▪ Tideland EMC (Beaufort, Craven, Dare, Hyde, Pamlico, and Washington): 800-637-1079
▪ Tri-County EMC (Duplin, Johnston, Jones, Lenoir, Sampson, Wayne, and Wilson): 919-735-2611 or 800-548-4869
▪ Wake Electric (Durham, Franklin, Granville, Johnston, Nash, Vance and Wake): 919-863-6499 or 800-743-315
NC Municipal Power customers:
▪ Apex: 919-372-7475
▪ Ayden: 252-481-5844
▪ Belhaven: 252-943-3055
▪ Benson: 919-894-3553
▪ Clayton: 919-553-1530
▪ Edenton: 252-482-4414
▪ Elizabeth City: 252-337-6870
▪ Farmville: 252-753-5116
▪ Fremont: 919-242-5151
▪ Greenville Utilities Commission: 855-767-2482
▪ Hamilton: 252-789-4530
▪ Hertford: 252-426-5311
▪ Hobgood: 252-826-4573
▪ Hookerton: 252-747-3816
▪ Kinston: 252-939-3282
▪ La Grange: 252-566-3186
▪ Laurinburg: 910-276-2364
▪ Louisburg: 919-496-4145 After hours: 919-496-4290
▪ Lumberton: 910-272-1348
▪ New Bern: 252-636-4070
▪ Pikeville: 919-242-5126
▪ Red Springs: 910-843-5241 x 228
▪ Robersonville: 252-508-0337
▪ Rocky Mount: 252-467-4800
▪ Scotland Neck: 252-826-3152
▪ Selma: 919-965-8981
▪ Smithfield: 919-934-1117
▪ Southport: 800-682-5309 After hours/weekends: 252-641-4247
▪ Wake Forest: 919-761-7899
▪ Washington: 252-975-9320
▪ Wilson: 252-399-2424
▪ Enfield: 252-445-5181
▪ Fayetteville: 910-223-4001
▪ Fountain: 252-749-2881
▪ Macclesfield: 252-827-4823
▪ Pinetops: 252-827-4435
▪ Sharpsburg: 252-446-9441
▪ Statonsburg: 252-238-3608
▪ Walstonburg: 252-753-5667
▪ Windsor: 252-794-2331
▪ Winterville: 252-902-6328
If the power goes out
▪ Unplug electronics to prevent damage from power surges
▪ Put generators, camp stoves or charcoal grills outside and at least 20 feet away from windows or open doors to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning. Install carbon monoxide alarms. If the alarm goes off, leave your home and call 911.
▪ Keep refrigerators and freezers closed.
▪ Do not leave candles unattended or around children or pets.