Utility officials said on Sunday that the reason for the mass blackout on the Outer Banks was a construction company damaging not one but three power cables and that it could take from 1-2 weeks to fully restore power.
Cape Hatteras Electric Cooperative (CHEC) said in updates on Facebook Sunday that it ran tests on its other two cables that showed all three transmission cables “have been compromised” leading to the blackout that has left thousands without power and forced visitors to leave the islands.
CHEC crews are working toward two solutions for transmission restoration. The first solution is to continue excavating the damaged cables and work to splice them back together; repairs have already begun on the first excavated cable. The second solution is to build a new overhead transmission line that would run from the south end of the Bonner Bridge to meet the cooperative’s existing overhead transmission line. CHEC said they will actively pursue both of these solutions until it is clear which of these will provide the fastest and safest option for a full repair.
Depending on which solution turns out to be the most practical, the timeline for a complete repair could vary from one to two weeks.
A mandatory evacuation remained in effect for all visitors to Hatteras and Ocracoke islands on Sunday.
Also on Sunday the North Carolina Department of Transportation Ferry Division announced an alternate schedule for its Cedar Island-Ocracoke and Swan Quarter-Ocracoke routes beginning Monday, July 31.
The schedule will be as follows:
- Swan Quarter to Ocracoke: 7:00 a.m. and 4:30 p.m.
- Ocracoke to Swan Quarter: 7:00 a.m. and 3:30 p.m.
- Cedar Island to Ocracoke: 7:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m.
- Ocracoke to Cedar Island: 7:30 a.m. and 4:00 p.m.
Only residents, property owners, emergency workers, vendors, and critical infrastructure personnel with Ocracoke re-entry documentation will be allowed onto Ocracoke-bound ferries. Law enforcement officers will be on hand at ferry terminals to enforce the re-entry restrictions.
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 said it would continue to supply temporary power to residents on Hatteras through the Buxton diesel generators and portable generators until the transmission repairs are complete.
The cooperative is also working to expand the temporary generation service on Hatteras Island, in order to accommodate the return of visitors, but the evacuation order still was in effect on Sunday.
PCL Construction, CHEC and New River Construction (CHEC’s transmission contractor), excavated the site of the incident. CHEC’s transmission system is three-phase, meaning there are three individual cables buried on the south side of the bridge. Crews exposed one of the cables, revealing that it was severed by the steel casing. Testing on Saturday showed that all three cables were damaged.