Local News

Thousands Of N.C. Residents May Be Without Power Until Wednesday

Posted December 9, 2002 11:47 a.m. EST

— Slowly, people in the area are starting to get their power back. But power officials still estimate that it could be Wednesday before many Triangle residents get power restored.

Duke Power officials said the storm has caused by far the most outages of any storm in the company's history, with more than 1.3 million outages reported. Officials said Duke Power has restored more than 700,000 customers in the past four days.

As a result of the high number of outages still being reported Sunday, many school systems have closed or delayed their schools for Monday. All Durham County, Orange County, Chatham County, Franklin County, Granville County and Chapel Hill/Carrboro system schools are closed. Durham Academy also is closed.

Wake County high schools are on a two-hour delay for Monday. Centennial Campus Middle School and Underwood Elementary are closed.

At midnight Sunday, the latest report from Duke Power had 69,100 outages in Durham County. That was down 7,100 from the 76,200 outages reported at noon Sunday. There was a peak of 109,000 at 6 a.m. Friday.

Duke Power began the storm with 120 crews working on restoration in Durham. That number was up to 585 as of noon Sunday, an increase of more than 100 since Saturday, with more help on the way.

There were 24,800 Duke Power customers without power in Orange County as of midnight Sunday. That was down from a peak of 39,000 at 6 a.m. Friday. Outages in Vance County totaled 10,900.

Duke Power began the storm with 40 crews working on restoration in Orange County. That number was up to 285 as of noon Sunday, up 85 from Saturday, with more help on the way.

In Granville County, 3,700 customers were reported to be without power in the Butner/Creedmoor area as of noon Sunday. This was down from a peak of 5,500 outages at 6 a.m. Friday.

Duke Power began the storm with 10 crews working on restoration in Granville County. That number was up to 45 by noon Sunday, with more help on the way.

As of midnight Sunday, Carolina Power and Light reported that its outages were down to 100,000 in the northern region, which includes the Triangle, Henderson, Oxford, Nash County, Roxboro and Warrenton.

Outages in Wake County were at 52,500 - down from 65,000 at noon Sunday and down from 464,000 at the peak of the storm.

There were 7,600 outages reported in Chatham County as of midnight Sunday, and 10,200 in Franklin County.

Carolina Power and Light has almost 3,000 crewmen in the field. More than half of them are from eight other states, including faraway Florida.

CP and L's worst natural disaster was Hurricane Fran in 1996, which knocked out power to 791,000 customers.

There was good news, meanwhile, for customers of North Carolina's electric cooperatives on Sunday: Ninety-nine percent of them had their power restored by 9 p.m.

The remaining one percent of cooperative customers were in communities particularly hard hit by the ice storm. About 13,000 of the cooperatives' 824,000 customers were without power Sunday night. The majority of those outages were in Davidson, Orange and Randolph counties.

Of the state's 27 cooperatives,20 reported their full systems were back up.

Hundreds of repair workers were streaming in from other states to repair damage to power lines owned by CP and L, Duke Power and smaller electric cooperatives.

"It will be an extended time for us to get the last customer on," said E.O. Ferrell, Duke Power's senior vice president for electric distribution. "We need to prepare for that."

Wake Electric, as of 10 p.m. on Sunday, reported less than 3,000 outages. They serve 24,600 customers and orginally had 18,000 customers without power.

BellSouth officials reported there are still 23,000 outages statewide. There is no estimated time when everyone will have service because the ice is still a problem, but they have crews working 24 hours and have brought in extra generators.

Time Warner officials announced that 70 percent of the Triangle is without cable. Crews from Columbia, S.C. and Fayetteville are helping out in the Triangle to help restore the cable.

Roads were generally in good shape, but officials warned that cars could be hit by falling ice and trees.

In Durham,

tempers heated up

as residents waited in long lines, hoping to get gas. Police had to be called to one area where customers started to get unruly.

Some Chapel Hill residents are out in the cold after a fire broke out Friday afternoon at the Kingswood apartment complex.

Fire investigators have not pinpointed a cause yet, but residents say some people on the top floor were using a grill inside their apartment. The complex does not have power.

The cold weather is also taking a toll on animals at shelters.

The Orange County animal shelter

is without power and officials are asking for donations of blankets to help keep the pets warm.

The storm - which many compared to recent hurricanes for its scale of destruction - coated trees and roads in ice, snarled air travel and kept children around the state home from school.

Cumberland County schools will be open except for Raleigh Road Elementary. That campus is closed because it has no power.

The Carolinas were the hardest hit as the weight of ice and snow snapped tree limbs and sent them crashing onto power lines. In Raleigh, the crack of buckling pines and oaks sounded like gunfire during hunting season.

Duke Hospital has reported several cases of carbon monoxide poisoning due to residents trying to heat their homes using a gas grill. One patient is listed in serious condition.

A 9-year-old Anson County boy died in a trailer home fire that was blamed on a kerosene heater that was likely left on during refueling.

At least four people died in traffic accidents attributed to the storm, according to the state Highway Patrol. The accidents were in Alamance, Bertie Rowan and Scotland counties.

Thursday, Easley declared a state of emergency and waived most weight limits for trucks removing debris and repairing utility lines.

Over the coming days without power, officials said people can expect food spoiling in homes, restaurants and stores; false alarms as batteries wear down on security systems; increased health problems, especially among the elderly; water lines bursting as they freeze; and power shorts when the electricity comes back on.

Residents who rely on wells with electric pumps will also be without water.