Crews examine cut power line, some NC Outer Banks areas on generator power

UPDATE: All 3 power cables to NC Outer Banks are damaged

CAPE HATTERAS, N.C. (WNCN/AP) -- Some areas of the North Carolina Outer Banks are now being powered by generators and digging crews have now reached the damaged underground power line so it can be examined, officials announced Saturday afternoon.

Tideland EMC announced Saturday afternoon that "all circuits are energized" on Ocracoke Island via three emergency mobile generators that arrived on the island Thursday and Friday.

Also, Hatteras, Frisco, Buxton and Avon are receiving temporary power via generators after a massive power outage that drove tourists from two North Carolina islands starting Thursday.

UPDATE: All 3 power cables to NC Outer Banks are damaged

"The occasional maintenance outage is to be expected from time to time but our goal is to keep them brief," Tideland officials said in a news release. "At this time we are not operating on a rotating service schedule and all circuits are energized."

Still, people on the islands have been asked to avoid using air conditioning and other appliances.

"The success of operating the island on generator power depends entirely on residents and visitors observing the strictest conservation habits possible," Tideland EMC officials said.

The outage was wiping out a significant chunk of the lucrative summer months for local businesses after a mandatory evacuation order.

RELATED: 7-person crew helping bring back power to the Outer Banks

It could take days or weeks to repair the blackout caused Thursday by construction crews working on a bridge between Outer Banks islands.

A construction company building a new bridge drove a steel casing into an underground transmission line, cutting power to thousands on Ocracoke and Hatteras Islands.

Excavation crews started digging around 1 p.m. Friday to reach the damaged power line and a trench box was set and a dewatering system was put in place, Hyde County officials said.

However, crews were having trouble digging the final 2-3 feet to the damaged line because of problems with silt and mud.

Around 1 p.m. Saturday, PCL Construction announced they managed to reach and "exposed the affected area and have begun investigating the damage."

The damaged area is about 9 feet underground and could involve up to three transmission lines, PCL Construction said.

"Electrical experts are currently initiating and assessing options for repairs," the construction company said.

The company is using two excavators, two vacuum trucks, and a loader in the repair operation.

On Saturday, Cape Hatteras Electric Cooperative announced that Hatteras, Frisco, Buxton and Avon are receiving temporary power via generators.

Tideland EMC reported that crews managed to set up separate circuits within the power system so that more areas can be powered by generators.

RELATED: Evacuation ordered for visitors on Hatteras Island

One of two 2-megawatt generators is providing power for Howard's Pub, Gaffers, a fire station, a variety store, Anchorage, Jolly Roger, a water plant, Fish House, NC CAT, Howard Street, South Ferry Terminal and British Cemetery areas.

The other generator will be used to supply power to areas such as Ocracoke School, a health clinic, Flying Melon, Fire House Road, Pony Island, Oyster Creek and Jackson Dunes, Hyde County officials said.

Early Saturday, Hyde County officials also said that the North Carolina DOT Ferry Division reported that they had evacuated 3,704 people and 1,372 cars.

There is currently no wait time at the ferry terminals, Hyde County officials said.

Emergency management officials have issued a mandatory evacuation order for Hatteras Island visitors because of a widespread power outage that has already prompted thousands of tourists to leave Hatteras and neighboring Ocracoke Island on North Carolina's Outer Banks.

RELATED: Your rights as a vacationer on the Outer Banks

The Dare County Department of Emergency Management said in a statement Friday that the evacuation order is mandatory for all visiting Hatteras Island effective at 6 a.m. Saturday. It includes the island villages of Rodanthe, Waves, Salvo, Avon, Buxton, Frisco and Hatteras.

Officials say they took that step as a safety precaution and because of growing uncertainty as to when repairs to a major transmission line would be complete. The statement says properly credentialed residents and non-resident property owners, along with essential personal and some others, would be allowed to remain. The evacuation order doesn't include any areas north of Oregon Inlet on the Outer Banks.

The county's emergency management department says it's continuing to work with utility officials to restore power to levels that would allow visitors to eventually return.

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