Thousands still without power as work week begins
Posted January 23, 2016
Updated January 25, 2016
Raleigh, N.C. — Clean-up continued Monday morning after freezing precipitation slammed the Triangle and surrounding areas on Friday, causing treacherous conditions.
As temperatures rose into the 40s Sunday, the ice that coated the area began to melt, leaving behind downed trees and power lines.
On Friday night, a large pine tree toppled onto Blake Bell's home on White Oak Court near Clayton. Arbormax Tree Service spent Sunday afternoon hauling it away.
"As long as we're okay, the house can be fixed. It's an inconvenience. It's one of the downfalls, I guess, to living here in North Carolina where we get all this ice," said Bell.
Arbormax owner, Timothy Robbins, said call volume has increased by 700 percent since the storm hit.
"Right now, we're overwhelmed. We're working 17, 18, 19 hours a day," he said.
Fallen trees have also been a big issue for power crews. On Sunday, contractors for Duke Energy were cleaning away broken branches from power lines in Johnston County. The utility company said downed limbs are a major cause of power outages in winter storms.
"It doesn't take a lot of ice to pack a pretty big punch when it comes to tree limbs," said Duke Energy spokeswoman Meredith Archie.
Archie noted that it only takes a quarter of an inch of ice to bring down a tree limb and half an inch of ice to weigh down power lines.
More than 100,000 customers lost power in North Carolina during the peak of the storm on Friday and into Saturday morning.
Duke Energy spokesman Jeff Brooks said more than 400,000 customers in North Carolina and South Carolina had their power restored by Saturday night.
According to Duke Energy's outage map, just under 11,000 customers were still without power as of 5:30 a.m. Monday – including 4,042 in Wake County, 3,332 in Johnston County, 1,089 in Nash County, and 931 in Franklin County.
According to Brooks, some transformers have exploded due to the weight on trees and the increasing winds.
Duke Energy officials said the company is donating $25,000 to local Red Cross chapters.
Archie said five power lines in Bailey snapped in half.
“We’ve got a 30 man crew that’s going to be working on putting the poles backup and getting power back on for about 500 to 1,000 customers in the area,” Archie said. “There is extensive damage here, so our crews are going to be working really fast.”
Archie said Duke Energy has deployed 7,000 power line workers across North Carolina.
As ice built up on trees and power lines, causing widespread outages, Duke Energy’s automated system also went down at the height of the storm late Friday night.
Customers across the area, including Patricia Cox, called Duke Power to report the outage but didn’t receive a response.
“We did OK through the night, but by the time we woke up we were freezing,” Cox said.
Duke Energy officials said they believe all of the lost calls have now been recovered, but it wouldn’t hurt to call again just to make sure they know who is without power.
Michael Chadwick lost power nearly 40 hours ago and found out his generator was broken when he attempted to restore power to his home.
Chadwick's only solution was to sit inside his truck for warmth.
"My good old Ford doesn't let me down," he said. "The heat is blowing my way, my seat is on, so I'm feeling pretty good in here."
Archie said she expects most power to be restored by Sunday night, but some complicated outages could linger into late Monday night.
Bruce Perkinson, a 91-year-old Rolesville resident, was still in the dark Sunday night. Lucky for her, the town has a program in place to check on the elderly and she’s on the list.
“Neighbors helping neighbors, just making sure no one freezes, no one goes without during these times,” said Sgt. Chris Saunders of the program.
Perkinson said she doesn’t remember the weather being quite so cold years ago.
“It was cold, but we didn’t have central heat. We didn’t have all the conveniences that they have now,” she said.
Perhaps the fact that she has lived without modern conveniences is why she was a bit more patient than most who were calling the Duke Energy Customer Service Call center over the weekend.
Many operators understand the frustration because they are dealing with power outages at home too. James Ellis has taken repeated calls from one customer in particular- his wife.
“She’s bugging me [about] when they are going to come back on. I don’t know,” said Ellis.
Residents in the Surry Point community in Apex were greatly affected by the outages, many of whom rely on power for their water supply.
Neighbors from Surry Point said the community well they rely on was not functioning on Saturday.
Aqua America, the company that operates the well, told WRAL News they dispatched a crew on Saturday to set up a generator at the community well.
In Raleigh, ice-coated lines fell across the road on New Bern Avenue at Trawick Road Friday night, closing the road in both directions. North Carolina Department of Transportation officials said the road will remain closed through noon on Sunday.
The power outages have also affected stoplights, leaving dozens disabled across the Triangle.
“You basically are supposed to treat that intersection like a four-way top intersection,” said N.C. Highway Patrol Sgt. Mike Baker. “Whoever arrives at that intersection first has the right of way, and then again if two vehicles approach the intersection at the same time; it’s always the person to the right.”
With many areas remaining slick Saturday night, Baker says drivers should be cautious, even at intersections where lights are properly functioning.
“Please approach these intersections very carefully, because the people in the oncoming lane may to be able to stop in time,” he said. “They may slide into the intersection, so we’re asking people to monitor their speed, slow down and increase their distances when they’re traveling on highways.”
Safe practices during icy conditions
When heavy ice forms, take these precautions:
- Have a place in your home where flashlights, a battery-powered radio, and extra batteries can be easily found
- If you know the outage is coming, set aside extra water and buy or make extra ice. You can use the ice to keep perishable items cool
- Make sure the battery in your smoke detector is fresh
- If possible, use flashlights instead of candles for emergency lighting. Candles used in unfamiliar settings can be dangerous fire hazards
- Leave one light on so you know when the power returns
- Avoid opening the refrigerator and freezer. This will help keep your food as fresh as possible. Be sure to check food for signs of spoilage
- Use generators safely
- If you have a portable generator, only run it outdoors with adequate ventilation
- Never use a generator indoors or in attached garages. The exhaust fumes contain carbon monoxide, which can be deadly if inhaled
- Listen to the radio for updates
- Your homeowner policy may cover spoiled food and other damages as a result of power outages, subject to the deductible. Check with your insurance company to see if your homeowner policy covers damages resulting from outages
- When the power goes out – many turn to candles for light:
- On average, 42 home candle fires are reported every day
- 1/3 of candle fires start in the bedroom
- Power Outages from storms increase the need for candle safety awareness
- Home heating equipment is second to cooking fires for causing home structure fires
- Avoid setting up a space heater too close to curtains, furniture, or decorations. Remember to keep at least three feet of clear space around it and set it up on the floor unless it is designed for other use
- Burn Wood in the Fireplace:
- Do not burn trash, cardboard boxes or debris in the fireplace
- These items burn unevenly and may cause a dangerous flash fire
- Damage can exceed $15,000, and the average runs $8,000
- Both plastic PVC and metal pipes freeze
- A trickle of water can make the difference
Damage from Ice/Fallen Tree
- Coverage typically applies when tree or limbs hits insured structure or vehicle
- If tree strikes nothing when it falls, there typically is not coverage for tree removal
Roadside and Vehicle Safety
- Ninety-six percent had at least one emergency supply in their vehicle, such as a spare tire or jumper cables, but only five percent carried all the essential emergency roadside supplies: hazard triangle/road flares, flashlight, first aid kit, water, blanket, etc.
- When clearing snow from vehicle, don’t forget the tailpipe. It can cause carbon monoxide poisoning when clogged