Power outage forces thousands to evacuate North Carolina islands

Reuters News
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Posted: Jul 31, 2017 3:02 PM

By Gina Cherelus and Jenna Zucker

(Reuters) - Police in North Carolina were issuing citations to vacationers who have yet to leave two Outer Banks islands where a power outage this week led to an evacuation order during the height of the summer vacation season, officials said on Saturday.

The outage was caused by an accident on Thursday that cut a transmission line during construction on a new bridge allowing vehicular traffic to reach Hatteras Island from the mainland. It also affected Ocracoke Island to the south, connected to the mainland only via air or ferry service.

“I'm so upset. Hatteras Island had to evacuate this morning so much for vacation this summer. I really feel bad for my sister's loss of money,” Twitter user @bridge_please wrote on Saturday.

About 3,700 tourists and nearly 1,400 cars were ferried off Ocracoke as of Saturday, according to the Hyde County website. The evacuation order there went into effect on Thursday.

On Hatteras, in Dare County, officials could not estimate how many people had left by car or boat since the order went into effect there on Saturday morning. About 50,000 people were affected, county spokeswoman Dorothy Hester said.

The Hyde County Sheriff's Office on Saturday warned that it would issue citations to any visitor who failed to comply, but spokesman Colby Sawyer did not know how many tickets had been written.

"We initially had quite an issue getting the people to leave," Sawyer said. "A lot of people did not heed that warning and did not evacuate."

Residents and vendors have been allowed to stay on the island, said Hyde County spokesman Donnie Shumate on Saturday, who said it was uncertain when full service would be restored.

Crews were having trouble inspecting the damaged line, Shumate said. "Until that happens, we can't even get an estimate on how long it could be," he said.

Cape Hatteras Electric Cooperative, which provides power to Hatteras, was using generators to provide partial electric service but conservation measures were in effect. North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper declared a state of emergency on Thursday for the two islands.

Representatives of the power company or PCL Construction, which is building the new bridge, could not immediately be reached for comment.

(Reporting by Gina Cherelus and Jenna Zucker in New York; Editing by James Dalgleish)