Tags: ocracoke island | power | outage

Ocracoke Island Power Outage Forces 10K NC Tourists to Head Home

Image: Ocracoke Island Power Outage Forces 10K NC Tourists to Head Home

Vacationers head north on NC 12 on Hatteras Island, N.C., on Friday, July 28, 2017. (Steve Earley/The Virginian-Pilot via AP)

Friday, 28 Jul 2017 12:16 PM

An Ocracoke Island power outage in North Carolina's Outer Banks has forced 10,000 vacationing tourists to head home.

People and cars lined up to get on ferries, the only way off Ocracoke Island. Gas stations ran perilously low on fuel and ice. Workers at a cafe improvised by using flashlights to make sausage biscuits on a gas stove and people searched for anything cold to eat or drink in the thick, humid air.

"There's a lot of hot, sweaty people here," said Erica Plouffe Lazure, of New Hampshire.

Two restaurants on Ocracoke were using generators to stay open, but the motel Lazure booked for her vacation closed when its generator exploded minutes after it was started.

"This is a beautiful island and I waited two years to come back here because it's one of my favorite places in the world," she said. "I'm a little bummed that the power has gotten in the way, but, till next time."

Ocracoke and Hatteras Islands went dark on Thursday when a construction company building a new bridge between the Outer Banks and the mainland drove a steel casing into an underground transmission line. The company, PCL Construction, was digging at the site Friday to determine the extent of the damage. Officials said it could be days or weeks before it's fixed.

North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper declared a state of emergency as generators were sent to the islands. Officials urged people to use them only to keep fans going and their refrigerators on so that they would not overload the power source.

The islands, which have about 5,000 permanent residents on them, rely heavily on the summer tourist season for their local economies and business owners worried about how long they would be shuttered.

Leslie Lanier, who owns a book store on Ocracoke Island, said by Friday morning most of the vacationers destination's thousands of visitors had left. Businesses like hers depend on summer tourists and workers aren't going to be paid during the days or weeks that the power is out.

Lanier said Friday was the first day since tourist season ramped up last month that she won't be at her book store.

At a deli-cafe located in the back of the Island Convenience store, Aaron Howe and Dolly Gray used flashlights to make sausage biscuits on a gas stove.

"It's the only location in town where you can get a bite," Howe told The Virginian-Pilot. "It might take a while but we'll get it done."

But it's cash only with the registers down.

Ice cream was selling for half price at the Slushy Stand as people tried to keep cool.

"Believe me, it was a little toasty last night," Andrea Wayda of New Jersey told the newspaper Friday morning before she and Patrick Jobe left on a ferry. The two stayed in a cabana with a pool during their visit.

Once off the island, tourists may face a slow, crowded ride as they maneuver N.C. Highway 12. The two-lane road is the only north-south roadway along the Outer Banks.

The power went out about 4:30 a.m. Thursday. Officials said about 9,000 customers are without power on the two islands — about 7,700 on Hatteras and another 1,300 on Ocracoke.

Rob Temple, a boat captain on Ocracoke Island, had a large group booked for Thursday night, but only a handful of people showed up after the power outage. Still, he took it in stride Friday as he waited in a line of cars for a ferry off the island to take his daughter to a movie in Nags Head.

"We get hurricanes sometimes in the middle of the season and you have to be prepared for this," he said.

© Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

 
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An Ocracoke Island power outage in North Carolina's Outer Banks has forced 10,000 vacationing tourists to head home.
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2017-16-28
Friday, 28 Jul 2017 12:16 PM
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