Nearly half of Sampson County is still without power in the wake of Hurricane Florence, whose extensive damage and outer bands are still giving linemen fits.
A very select few were never in the dark, while some have seen the lights come back on sporadically, but it has been a slow process.
As of Monday morning, there were 17,747 power outages reported in Sampson, approximately 49 percent of the county. Duke Energy is reporting 9,504; Four County is reporting 3,426 and South River is reporting 4,817. By 5 p.m., those numbers for Duke and South River had dropped further to 9,283 and 4,435, respectively.
According to Duke Energy officials, crews were working to restore power to 300,000 customers who lost electricity when Hurricane Florence rolled through the Carolinas.
As of 1 p.m. Monday, the company has experienced a total of 1.5 million outages throughout the storm event. Duke Energy has restored power to roughly 1.2 million, they said.
Many of the remaining impacted customers are located in tough-to-access coastal areas that experienced historic flooding, multiple road closures and significant structural damage.
“With many of the main and secondary roads closed, getting additional crews to the impacted areas has been a challenge,” said Howard Fowler, Duke Energy incident commander. “We want all our customers in the hard-hit areas to know more help is coming to assist the crews already working in these areas.”
Overall, Duke Energy has dispatched more than 20,000 personnel to restore power across the Carolinas — the company’s largest storm response in the region ever.
The company conducted some limited aerial inspections in some of the hard-hit areas late Sunday. However, improving weather conditions will aid assessments today. Still, full power restoration may take weeks, rather than days, due to the widespread damage and flooding.
City manager Tom Hart met with a Duke Energy representative, who said Clinton runs on two major substations. The southern substation on Ferrell Street has transmission lines restored to it.
“This is why a lot of the southern end of the city has power,” Hart stated.
The north end of the city is fed off the Clinton North substation, which is still without power.
“The large transmission lines to that substation go through the swamps northwest of the city toward Roseboro; (they) are not getting power to it,” Hart stated Monday. “Today is the first full day Duke Energy has been able to have helicopters up checking on these transmission lines. They are flying an observation helicopter down the lines followed by a helicopter with a saw suspended underneath.”
An unofficial timeframe for getting power back to the Clinton North substation was expected to be received by city officials soon
“The local crews say they have done a lot of the local repairs so once the substation gets power restoration should be fast,” Hart stated. “There are some facilities like the hospital and LC Kerr which are normally fed by the Clinton North substation, that are currently being back-fed off the southern substation. I would estimate around 40 percent of the city is still without power.”
South River EMC started the day with a plan to attack the remaining 11,620 members who are still without electric service in the wake of Hurricane Florence. Increasing flooding, closed routes and storm debris were expected to serve as hurdles.
“Yesterday we made a lot of headway and all of our crews worked together to restore as many services as possible,“ said Catherine O’Dell, VP of Member Services and Public Relations, on Monday. “As the day progressed, we found travel to be much more challenging due to increased flooding. We will continue to find new routes to reach our members, however the flooding is certainly going to slow the process of restoration in some areas.”
Over 200 additional line personnel traveling from 22 electric cooperatives in Ohio, Tennessee and Illinois, as well from three electrical contracting companies and three tree expert businesses support the electric cooperative.
One other challenge facing full restoration is the fact that Duke Energy Progress still had repairs to make to their transmission system in order for South River EMC to energize several substations in Cumberland and Sampson counties.
“We understand that people are becoming increasingly frustrated, however restoration after a hurricane is an arduous task and our crews are working diligently to get all service restored as quickly as is safely possible,” said O’Dell.
While the power is out, people are encouraged to turn off their air conditioners, all appliances and all lights except one. This will help make the transition easier once the electricity is restored. If people have too many electric items on when the power is restored, the circuits can be overloaded causing additional outages.”