State News

Cooper: NC looking for ways to reimburse losses from OBX outage

Posted July 31, 2017 7:53 a.m. EDT
Updated July 13, 2018 1:39 p.m. EDT

— As crews work to restore power to the southern half of the Outer Banks, state officials are beginning to explore ways for tourists and businesses to recoup money lost because of the outage.

A contractor working on the Bonner Bridge replacement accidentally severed last Thursday two of the three underwater transmission lines supplying power to Hatteras and Ocracoke islands.

Gov. Roy Cooper visited the site Monday and said state Department of Transportation and Division of Emergency Management officials were working with Cape Hatteras Electric Cooperative to restore power as quickly as possible.

"Every day is important to the economy of this part of our state," Cooper said.

Susan Flythe, the general manager of the electric co-op, said crews have already spliced one of the damaged cables and are digging up the second one. The utility also is putting up an overhead transmission line from the Bonner Bridge to existing lines on Hatteras Island, she said.

Flythe said crews are working on both plans until it's clear which is fastest and safest. Depending on the approach, repairs could take one to two weeks, she said.

"If you're coming next week," Cooper said, "I wouldn't be canceling anything yet because I think they're working really hard to try and get this thing done as quickly as possible."

Tropical Storm Emily could affect repair plans, however. The storm is forecast to move up the East Coast later this week after crossing over Florida on Monday.

Transportation Secretary Jim Trogdon said officials are tracking the storm and will adjust their work as needed.

About 45,000 to 50,000 people have been evacuated from Hatteras and Ocracoke islands since last week, and about 5,000 to 6,000 people remain, officials said.

Cooper visited businesses in Rodanthe on Monday to see firsthand the impact of the outage on the local economy. He praised coastal residents as resilient, noting they have weathered many storm-related outages in the past.

"No doubt they will be back and in action as soon as that power is turned back on," he said.

Keith Matthews, manager of Avon Fishing Pier, said a lengthy outage during the height of the summer tourist season, is a serious blow to his bottom line.

"It’s hit us at a very bad time," Matthews said. "We usually have a couple hundred people out there fishing. We’re just sitting here waiting now, waiting for it to happen – lines fixed and power start rolling."

Cooper said his staff and the Attorney General's Office will work to see if business owners and tourists who have lost money can be reimbursed. Numerous tourists have said vacation rental agencies are refusing to refund the money they paid for homes they cannot stay in this week because of the evacuation, insisting that refunds are provided only in the event of a natural disaster.

"I hope there is a way people can be reimbursed," Cooper said. "Clearly, this was a company's fault. I think that we should work hard to make sure people are made as whole as possible.

"There’s a lot of money that lost on a daily basis," he continued. "Right now, the effort is to get the power back on quickly. Then, I think people’s eyes will be on restitution and making it right."