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Some Customers Allege Duke Power Not Living Up To Its Name

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DURHAM, N.C. — Power crews are a welcome sight for many people in Durham's powerless neighborhoods. But many frustrated customers complain Duke Power did not dispatch crews quickly enough after last week's ice storm. Duke Power officials point out Durham was not the only area hard hit by the storm.

Mayor Bill Bell, who has also been without power, said he has been flooded with calls.

"Our concern was, and of course it's a perception, but not seeing trucks on the street and knowing the storm was forecast, Duke Power didn't ramp up as soon as they could have," Bell said.

Said Duke Power district manager Jimmy Flythe: "There was nothing more we could do. No other utilities were ready to send crews until they kney they were going to get hit."

Flythe said a record 1.3 million Duke Power customers lost electricity systemwide, which was nearly twice the previous high. That spread resources thin, even with help from 17 states like Georgia. Plus, Duke Power officials said they do not want most crews working after dark.

"For safety purposes, they can't work those kinds of hours," Flythe said. "You've got to have people working daylight hours. They're going to be much more productive during the daylight than at night."

For cold customers like Ed Hodges, the prospect of heat warmed his reaction to Duke Power's response.

"We were a little bit edgy about it, but not to the point where they weren't doing their job," he said.

Said Flythe: "There's no conspiracy. It's at our advantage to have their meters turning because we are losing revenue when they're not turning. We want the meters turning as badly as the customers do."

Mayor Bell said he wants an independent assessment of Duke Power's response.

Ben Turner, of the state Utilities Commission told WRAL that, considering the magnitude of damage and outages, he believes Duke Power has done the best job possible.


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