State News

Repairs to Outer Banks transmission cables could take 2 weeks

Posted July 30

— It could take up to two weeks to restore electricity after construction crews building a new bridge damaged all three transmission cables that provide electricity to two North Carolina islands where tourists were ordered to leave because of a lack of power.

The Cape Hatteras Electric Cooperative on Sunday night said crews are actively working toward two potential solutions to restore the transmissions. The first would be to continue excavating the damaged caple and work to splice them back together as repairs have already begun on the first excavated cable.

The second potential solution would be to build new overhead transmission lines that would run from the south end of Bonner Bridge to meet existing overhead transmission lines.

"Depending on which solution turns out to be the most practical, the timeline for a complete repair could cary from one to two weeks," the company said in a statement.

Authorities issued mandatory evacuations for visitors for Ocracoke and Hatteras islands after PCL Construction drove a steel casing into the underground transmission cables on Thursday. PCL is building new bridge over the Oregon Inlet, parallel to the current Bonner Bridge.

portable generator

Due to the restrictions of visitation as a result of the power outage, the North Carolina Department of Transportation Ferry Division will adopt an alternate schedule for its Cedar Island-Ocracoke and Swan Quarter-Ocracoke routes beginning Monday.

The news 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.

Cape Hatteras Electric Cooperative said they will continue to supply temporary power to residents on the island through the Buxton diesel generators and portable generators. They are also working to expand temporary generator service in order to accomodate a staged reentry of visitors.

For business owners on Ocracoke and Hatteras Island in the Outer banks, the power outage and evacuations are costing them during the most critical time of year.

Lisa Sturgill, the general manager of Cape Hatteras Motel in Buxton, said all customers received refunds on their reservations.

"It's like having a hurricane without the bad weather," she said. "All of our rooms are empty. But it's just another storm. We'll get through it like we always do."

Repair crews had their first look Friday at a damaged cable that caused a power outage on the Outer Banks.

Residents have been in the dark since Thursday morning, when a construction crew working on the new Bonner Bridge inadvertently cut a transmission cable. Gov. Roy Cooper declared a state of emergency Thursday evening for the communities, and authorities asked all non-residents to leave Ocracoke Island. On Sunday, the mandatory visitor evacuation remained in place.

Laura Ertle, a spokeswoman for Cape Hatteras Electric Cooperative, said employees of the Roanoke, Virginia-based company that erected the cable on the original Bonner Bridge in 1995 would dig up the cable and assess the damage before any estimate on a fix could be made.

"Once they get here and put eyes on it, then we'll have a really better sense of what we're looking at in terms of repair time," she said.

If the necessary materials are on hand, repairs could take several days, Ertle said. If the items are not available locally, repairs could take weeks.

Gov. Roy Cooper on Thursday declared a state of emergency, lifting weight restrictions for equipment needed to restore power or supply food, fuel and other necessities to those affected.

“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.

An estimated 10,000 tourists saw their vacation plans were blacked out by the evacuation order.

By Saturday afternoon, the North Carolina Department of Transportation estimated that a little more than 3,700 people and 1,400 cars had left Ocracoke Island.

4 Comments

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  • Haley Sessoms Jul 30, 8:23 p.m.
    user avatar

    I don't know about under water but when utility locates mark roadside utilities they have a 4 foot grace line. Therefore whatever they mark there is 2 feet on each side anything after that falls on the locater if damaged

  • Thomas Williams Jul 30, 4:54 p.m.
    user avatar

    Its hard to understand why something this important isn't marked so well that it would be next to impossible to cut it while working on another project. Mistakes occur with stuff like this, and it is understandable, but there is no excuse for this. I guess they have redundancy for these power cables, hard to believe all the backups are cut too. I know when AT&T was putting in their fiber they messed up a lot of yards, and cut a lot of lines and pipes, etc. They drilled into our sewer pipe and had to put a connector piece back in to "fix it". I'm wondering if one day after they have left the picture the splice will break, or come apart, or something.

  • Steve Weaver Jul 30, 4:54 p.m.
    user avatar

    Contractor may not be responsible, were the utilities marked before construction and who marked them? Were they marked correctly?

  • Scott Spaine Jul 30, 2:58 p.m.
    user avatar

    This contractor should pay restitution to every business owner for the financial loses they will incure due to loss of business. This was pure negligence on their part.