ROCKINGHAM — Residents throughout central and eastern parts of the state — including Richmond County — remain without power in the wake of Hurricane Matthew, and many could be waiting for as long as six more days.
In it’s noon update, Pee Dee Electric thanked customers bearing with the company as it works to restore power to its customers.
“Outages have fallen to under 900,” the update read. “We’re getting there, and your patience and words of encouragement mean the world to us. Crews have been working hard since six this morning and are definitely making headway.”
At noon, Pee Dee Electric reported 662 outages in Richmond County. By 4:30 p.m. that number was reduced to 273, according to its online, real-time outage viewer at http://omv.pdemc.com/.
At 2:30 p.m. Monday, Duke Energy hosted an audio news conference call regarding its progress in restoring power to its customers across the state.
David Fountain, North Carolina President for Duke Energy, likened the recent storm to powerful hurricanes of the past.
“The storm hit us really hard,” he said. “Unfortunately, we will remember Hurricane Matthew in much the same way remember Hurricanes Fran, Floyd and Hugo. We’ve all banded together to work as quickly and safely as possible to restore power to our customers here at Duke Energy. We’re also working with local, state and federal officials in our overall response efforts.”
Fountain added that the energy company is doing all it can to get lights back on, even for its employees.
“Many of our own employees are without power in our homes,” he explained. “A number of them in the eastern part of North Carolina are dealing with rising flood waters in their homes, and the homes of family members and friends. In spite of these challenges, they are working to restore power to our customers, along with an army of over 7,000 people working in the field today with several thousand more to come tomorrow.”
Duke Energy Storm Director Bobby Simpson, speaking of the “devastation” he has seen during the damage assessment and effort to restore power, described a number of factors causing delays.
“I think everyone’s aware that flooding’s a big issue,” he explained. “There are many, many roads that are washed-out, and there are rivers that are cresting at different times, so we end up with real difficulties accessing the hardest-hit areas. We had a case where one of our crews was traveling to Wilmington just after the storm to start restoring power and they were stranded on Interstate 40 because there was water across Interstate 40. It had to be closed, and when they turned around to go back to Raleigh, it was flooded on the other side, so they were caught in between.”
He said access issues due to water and fallen trees are not the only obstacles to getting peoples’ power back on.
“Just this morning we had a secondary road cave in when one of our line trucks was driving across it. These are just some examples to give you a feel of what we’re dealing with. We’ve put together a plan to ensure that we can expeditiously get resources and material into those stricken areas. That’s a key part of our restoration plan.
“From a damage to our facility standpoint, we have 800 poles down and counting, thousands of spans of wire, and we have 57 transmission lines down,” he explained. “And these are the lines that are on the highest lattice towers. They are built to sustain strong winds, and it’s uncommon to have that many transmission lines down. Getting those rebuilt and restored is a key part of the restoration.”
He said that only 13 of the 57 transmission lines have been restored.
“That impacts substations, and substations are those facilities that serve a lot of customers from a central point,” he said. “We have some substations that are flooded and we’ve had to wait for waters to recede just to even get in there, and there’s some cases where we had to de-energize them and move the load to another facility just from a safety standpoint.”
By 4:30 p.m. Monday, Duke Energy’s online outage tracker indicated 2,984 customers were without power, and the following alert was posted for the area:
“Although many will be restored earlier, the goal is to have all customers impacted by Hurricane Matthew, who can receive power, restored before 11:45 p.m. Sunday, October 16. As crews arrive onsite to make repairs and restore service, specific estimated times of restoration will be updated for customers.”
Reach reporter Melonie McLaurin at 910-817-2673 and follow her on Twitter @meloniemclaurin.