OBX blackout: Mandatory evacuation, state of emergency on Ocracoke Island

Thousands were without power on Ocracoke and Hatteras islands on Thursday and officials were unsure when it will be restored.

The Cape Hatteras Electric Cooperative said on Thursday that it could take several days or even weeks before power can be restored on Hatteras and Ocracoke.

A state of emergency was issued Thursday, according to Hyde County officials, and visitors to Ocracoke were told to evacuate so work could proceed on restoring power.

PCL Construction, the company building the new Bonner Bridge, told CHEC that at about 4:30 a.m. on Thursday, its crews drove a steel casing into the underground transmission cable running between the south end of the bridge and the overhead riser pole, causing the outage.

CHEC was working to provide temporary power to Buxton, Frisco and part of Hatteras Village on Thursday using the diesel generating plant. CHEC was bringing in additional portable generators to supplement the plant Thursday evening.

Once in place, CHEC planned to initiate rolling blackouts. But that will only be possible if the load is at a minimum level, CHEC said in a Facebook post. So people in the area were asked to conserve energy by turning off AC units and water heaters and minimizing other electric use.

Tideland Electric said an attempt to run the Ocracoke generator failed Thursday, resulting in damage that could make it inoperable. Three mobile generators were headed to the island and expected on Friday.

There were no impacts to roads or bridges in Dare County as of Thursday, according to county officials.

Gov. Roy Cooper declared a state of emergency for the islands on Thursday, which allows the governor to mobilize resources to respond to the power outage. The order Cooper signed also waives restrictions on weight and hours of service for fuel, utility and other truck drivers who may be working to deliver supplies and other resources needed in the affected areas.

“This declaration will allow us to move much needed resources through the state as quickly as possible to help restore the power to Ocracoke and Hatteras Islands,” Cooper said in a statement.

Dare County issued a water conservation alert for Hatteras Island customers during the outage, though there was no concern about water quality.

Hyde County Emergency Services said on Thursday that limited power would be restored to Ocracoke island using a generator and that rolling blackouts would begin “for a period of time yet to be determined” but could only be successful if all island residents and visitors shut off nonessential breakers and “observe strict conservation.”

“If the current population of Ocracoke does not comply, the rotating (blackout) schedule could be interrupted and attempts to alleviate the stress of the outage could be suspended. We are very hopeful that the outage will be addressed expeditiously but everyone needs to be prepared for an extended outage,” according to Hyde County Emergency Services.

A power outage map can be found at: outages.chec.coop/OMSWebMap/OMSWebMap.htm?clientKey=undefined.

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