Hurricane Matthew left more than 70,000 customers without power as strong winds and heavy rains swept across North Carolina Saturday and into Sunday morning.
Once the weather cleared, crews from Duke Energy, South River Electric Membership Corporation and Four County Electric deployed to assess damage left behind from the Category 1 hurricane that wrecked havoc on the Florida, South Carolina and North Carolina coasts.
An exact determination of when total power would be restored was uncertain as of Sunday afternoon, but officials with all power companies said crews were working to have power returned to customers as quickly as possible.
“Our crews are assessing the damage now, and when they can, crews will be dispatched out to the areas who were hardest hit,” Ann Sheffield, spokesperson for Duke Energy stated just after 1 p.m. Sunday.
According to Sheffield, Duke Energy has just over 17,000 customers in the Sampson County area and more than 15,000 of those were without power.
“There has been extensive damage in the Carolinas due to Hurricane Matthews,” Sheffield added.
More than 660,000 outages were reported in all of South and North Carolina. As of Sunday afternoon, officials with Duke Energy said crews were making progress, restoring power to more than 400,000 customers. However, Sheffield said it could take up to a week to complete restorations. Specific estimated times of restoration will be posted on the Duke Energy website.
“The damage to this area was more than originally forecast,” Sheffield added. “Our outage numbers are significant. We are anticipating a several-day process to complete restoration.”
“It’s very hazardous out there, and conditions aren’t going to improve quickly,” Bobby Simpson, Duke Energy’s storm director, said. “We are asking folks to be safe and patient. The sun may be out today, but it doesn’t mean everything is OK. We’re looking at a long, difficult road to recovery.”
Crews from South River EMC were spending most of Sunday afternoon assessing the extent of the damage to the electric system, working to formulate a plan for restoration and begin the repair process.
“We are facing widespread outages affecting 26,000 customers,” Chis Spears, CEO, said. “We will begin by doing the repairs that will restore power to the largest number of members first and end with outages that impact one or two members. We expect full restoration to take about seven days.”
Power companies have issued the following safety measures during this time:
Stay away from power lines that have fallen or are sagging. Consider all power lines energized, as well as trees or limbs in contact with power lines. Please report downed power lines to your local power provider.
If a power line falls across a car you’re in, stay in the car. If you must get out of the car due to a fire or other immediate life-threatening situation, do your best to jump clear of the car and land on both feet. Be sure no part of your body is touching the car when your feet touch the ground.
Power lines can be hidden by debris and standing water so please be extremely careful moving around in damaged areas.
Duke Energy customers can report an outage or view the outage map at www.duke-energy.com. South River customers can report an outage at www.sremc.com and Four County outages can be reported to www.fourcty.org.
Reach Kristy D. Carter at 910-592-8137, ext. 2588. Follow us on Twitter. Like us on Facebook.