Cape Hatteras EC, Tideland EMC Move Quickly During Crisis
Co-ops worked around the clock to restore service to the Outer Banks
In the early morning hours on July 27, PCL Construction workers at the Outer Banks Bonner Bridge site moved a steel casing aside for storage and drove it into the ground, as an unused shovel might be stuck in the dirt, according to the NC Department of Transportation (NCDOT).
In doing so, the casing damaged two of the three 115 kV underground transmission cables supplying power to members of Cape Hatteras Electric Cooperative (CHEC) and Tideland EMC on Hatteras and Ocracoke islands.
With roughly 10,000 meters affected during peak tourism season, the co-ops worked quickly to restore power with permanent and temporary diesel generators as Dare and Hyde County officials ordered nonresidents to evacuate the islands. By midday Saturday, July 29, both co-ops had restored power to full-time residents, and transmission service was fully restored by the following Thursday. The islands reopened to tourists on Friday, August 4.
“This was an unprecedented event. We’re so grateful to cooperative and contract crews for their tireless efforts to restore power, and to cooperative members and visitors of Hatteras and Ocracoke Islands for their continued patience and support,” CHEC General Manager Susan Flythe said. “North Carolina Electric Membership Corporation, NCDOT, and county and state officials also provided continued support and resources during restoration efforts.”
Electric co-ops across the state provided supplies, and Brunswick Electric and Roanoke Electric Cooperative provided crews for support throughout the restoration process.
After assessing the damage, CHEC and a team of contractors and specialists began two simultaneous projects to restore power from the mainland: repair of the underground cables and construction of a new overhead line.
“I told people, don’t cancel your vacations, because they’re going to work hard,” Governor Roy Cooper said following a visit to the site. “They’re going to work hard to get this thing fixed.”
PCL Construction was able to reveal all three cables, one of which was successfully spliced and repaired, but water continued to seep into the excavated trench, making it unsuitable for full repairs. The overhead option was deemed the safest, quickest way to restore power (see map above).
“Ahead of storms, we’re able to have some sense of coming outage issues, but this was one of those instances that comes out of the blue,” said Tideland EMC General Manager and CEO Paul Spruill. “We’re very appreciative of our members, who took early calls for conservation seriously. Some of our largest island members agreed to remain on their own standby generation while we normalized loads on diesel generators. Managing this was really a community effort.”
Prepping for storms and managing outages