Work continues to restore power, tourists on Hatteras Island to evacuate
OCRACOKE, Hyde County - As day two of power outages rolls on across Hatteras and Ocracoke Islands on the Outer Banks, residents have learned that rolling blackouts and limited generator-driven power will be a way of life for days, if not a week or more.
Hyde County Emergency Services official Colby Sawyer said the power outages, which are affecting about 7,700 customers on Hatteras Island and another 1,300 on Ocracoke Island could last for a while.
CLICK HERE for a link on re-entry credentials for the impacted areas in Dare Co.
"It could take three to four days, maybe a week in a half to two weeks until power is restored," Sawyer said.
Late Friday, Dare County officials issued a mandatory evacuation of visitors on Hatteras Island starting at 6 a.m. Also, no visitors are allowed south of Oregon Inlet.
WATCH: The blackout continues near Rodanthe (Chris Carman video)
Three generators are now on Ocracoke Island. However, one generator was missing the equipment needed to connect to the circuit. Officials were working to get that problem resolved by midnight. In the meantime, engineers are working again through the night to reach the damaged portion of the main transmission line so it can be fixed. A damage and repair report could be available Saturday.
Gas station running off generator. Everyone scrambling to get gas before power runs out #OBXBlackout #13newsnow pic.twitter.com/iqYchQ1ycj-- Jemie Lee (@13JemieLee) July 28, 2017
Friday afternoon, Dare County Government tweeted that mandatory power conservation measures have been implemented.
Mandatory Power Conservation Measures Implemented for Hatteras Island https://t.co/tkcBhLqw05 #OBX #HatterasIsland #Hatteras-- Dare County (@DareCountyGovt) July 28, 2017
Tourists - some estimates have as many as 10,000 nonresidents staying on the two islands - have been asked to evacuate the islands by noon on Friday. The normal ferry services are not allowing anyone but residents to travel to the islands from the mainland.
As of 3 p.m. on Friday, 2,386 people and 893 vehicles had been evacuated from the island. Hyde County spokesperson Donnie Shumate emphasized that the evacuation order was mandatory and that those that did not leave the island that weren't residents or employees of area businesses could be cited for a misdemeanor.
As of 3:00 p.m.: 2386 people evacuated, 893 cars. Generators are in route to Ocracoke and could be supplying power as early as tonight. pic.twitter.com/NSnBLybu9b-- NCDOT Ferry Division (@NCDOT_Ferry) July 28, 2017
"As the order for evacuation is mandatory, all visitors on the island are ordered to leave immediately," Shumate said. "The Hyde County Board of Commissioners and State of North Carolina have both declared states of emergency, and any individual who fails to leave an evacuated area shall be guilty of a Class 2 misdemeanor."
Gov. Roy Cooper issued a statement encouraging the work and also asking residents to listen to the warnings.
"The situation is stabilizing today thanks to the use of additional portable generators," Cooper said. "Public safety services have power as do water and sewer. I ask residents and visitors to be patient as everyone works towards restoring the power and getting conditions back to normal on Hatteras and Ocracoke Islands. Conserving power is crucial until that time comes."
Dare County officials are asking those evacuating through Hatteras Island to wait until getting north of Oregon Inlet to get gas or lodging as they are facing shortages themselves.
Cape Hatteras Electric Cooperative said in a press release Friday morning that they continue to work to restore power to the island's residents and businesses.
PCL Construction is working to excavate the site of the damaged transmission cable, so our crews can assess the extent of the damage. #OBX pic.twitter.com/8wQdc7efj2-- Cape Hatteras EC (@CHEMC09) July 28, 2017
Right now, power has been provided by diesel-powered generator plant in Buxton and two portable generators in Avon and Waves. CHEC is asking residents to use as little electricity as possible due to the limited supply available, including shutting off air conditioning, water heaters, HVAC units and all other non-essential breakers.
"These generators will only be able to run if load is at minimal levels and everyone is conserving," CHEC said in a press release.
Crews from multiple electric companies have been called in to help monitor the generators on a 24/7 basis.
Shumate said Tideland EMC has one portable generator on Ocracoke Island that was made operational at around 3:30 am Friday morning, but that only powers a small area near the lighthouse.
Carrie Brothers, who lives in Waves and works on Hatteras Island, said local residents are trying to make the best out of a bad situation but said it doesn't compare to past natural disasters, such as Hurricane Matthew in 2016.
"Compared to other disasters this is really more of an inconvenience," she told NewsChannel 12. "Yes, it comes with huge financial losses for local businesses and personal financial loss and the island will be feeling the effects for a long time.
"We lost modern conveniences, not homes. Yes, it is sweaty and stressful, but no one has watched all of their belongings disappear in a flood."
Most critical at the moment, Brothers said, was getting residents to use only what little power they absolutely need so that generators aren't overloaded and the elderly and medically fragile aren't put into a potentially dangerous situation.
She said most of the visitors have been understanding of the temporary crisis, and she was hopeful that it won't deter them from coming back in the future, given how much many businesses in the area depend on tourism.
"Hatteras has a tiny population and businesses have small staffs which compounds the issue," she said. "(But) we're trying."
CHEC said the power outage was caused by damage to a transmission line along Bonner Bridge. Crews from PCL Construction accidentally drove a steel cable into the transmission cable while building the new Bonner Bridge.
The first step, which is already underway, is to excavate the site. Once that is done, crews can assess the damage and give a better estimate for how long repairs will take.
Dare County, of which Hatteras Island is a part, has issued a water consumption alert, asking residents and businesses to conserve as much water as possible due to a drop in production capacity. There is no change in the water's quality.
For updated information, visit the Cape Hatteras Electric Cooperative's Facebook Page or text "Join HatterasPower" to 51664 to receive updates from Dare County Emergency Management.