Co-ops Restore Power on Outer Banks

Electric cooperatives have rebuilt power lines and restored service to thousands of members and tourists a week after a bridge construction mishap plunged part of North Carolina’s Outer Banks into darkness.

(Graphic Provided By: NCEMCS)

(Graphic Provided By: NCEMCS)

Cape Hatteras Electric Cooperative and Tideland EMC were praised for their efficiency in turning the lights on. 

"Getting power back sooner than expected means visitors can return and local businesses can get back to work during peak summer travel season," said North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper, who had visited the site of transmission damage and reconstruction.

CHEC announced August 3 that new transmission was constructed and energized, restoring electricity to all of Hatteras and Ocracoke islands.

Tourists were welcomed back to the beach communities at noon August 4 with Dare and Hyde counties lifting resident-only restrictions that were mandated when the power outage occurred in the predawn hours of July 27.

"In order to ensure we were doing everything in our power to get electricity back in the safest and fastest possible way we pursued two solutions simultaneously," said Laura Ertle, director of public relations and marketing at CHEC in Buxton.

Working around the clock, CHEC crews and contractors excavated the damaged underground cables for repair while building overhead powerlines to connect with existing overhead transmission on Hatteras. In the end, the overhead transmission proved to be the best solution, CHEC said.

Lumbee River EMC, Jones-Onslow EMC, Edgecombe-Martin EMC, Roanoke Electric Cooperative, and Brunswick EMC all pitched in to help CHEC and Tideland get power back to their members as quickly as possible.

The blackout of Hatteras and Ocracoke islands occurred when a steel casing cut through CHEC's underground transmission at the southern tip of the new Bonner Bridge that links the island to rest of the Outer Banks north. Nearly 10,000 meters were affected.

Crews constructed overhead powerline to connect underground transmission from the mainland and repower Hatteras and Ocracoke islands (Photo Courtesy of CHEC)

Crews constructed overhead powerline to connect underground transmission from the mainland and repower Hatteras and Ocracoke islands (Photo Courtesy of CHEC)

CHEC's transmission carries electricity from the mainland south across Oregon Inlet before it reaches Hatteras Island. It then runs about 50 miles south down the island before crossing Hatteras Inlet to reach Ocracoke Island.

Tideland EMC, based in Pantego, serves all of Ocracoke Island which is accessible only by ferry. The co-op coordinated delivery of three mobile generators after the island's 3-megawatt diesel peaking generator broke shortly after the blackout.

By midday July 29, both CHEC and Tideland had restored their members with temporary generator power.

The co-ops said they were thankful to their members, county and state officials and all their fellow co-ops who pitched in to provide a clear, safe path toward the restoration.

On Ocracoke, Tideland members participating in a microgrid with remote-control thermostats and water heater controls helped keep load down when conservation was critical. Some also ran their own generators. The co-op and its G&T, North Carolina Electric Membership Corporation, first energized the microgrid in February.

"We want to thank our Ocracoke Island members who had faith in the co-op, heeded our calls for assistance and conservation as needed, and showed such grace and community spirit during an extremely stressful time," said Heidi Jernigan Smith, manager of corporate communications at Tideland.