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News Severe wind storm wreaks havoc in WNC

Power poles and lines leaned precariously when trees fell across them early Tuesday morning, just up the hill on Phillips Street near Franklin High School. Street lights were broken and several lines lay across the road. Surprisingly, residents did not lose power which may have accounted for the fact that the lines had yet to be repaired on Wednesday afternoon. Photo by Vickie CarpenterOver 18,000 without power for days - Duke Energy struggling to repair area lines

A severe weather system moving through the Carolinas on Monday night and Tuesday morning caused widespread power outages and significant structural damage in the mountain region and as far east as Charlotte and Greensboro. More than 250,000 customers reportedly lost power in Duke Energy’s Carolinas service area. While power for many has already been restored, some customers should expect to wait until Friday or even the weekend before they have electricity again.

Sixty- to 70-mile-per-hour wind gusts and driving rain uprooted large trees and downed electric poles and power lines in various parts of the region.

Western North Carolina counties – Duke's Nantahala Service Area – were some of the hardest hit areas, with electric poles, power lines and trees reported down around the region. Duke Energy estimated that more than 18,000 customers were without power in the area on Tuesday morning, mostly in Swain and Jackson counties. (Duke serves more than 72,000 customers in the mountainous 1,729 square-mile Nantahala Service Area.)

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Duke Energy crews work diligently to restore power to its customers.In Macon County, DOT crews were busy overnight and through the day, clearing roads of trees and debris. There were 29 reports of downed trees and/or utility lines causing hazardous situations, including at least one broken utility pole. There were nine miscellaneous fire calls during the evening, including one structure fire reported in Clarks Chapel which was stormrelated. Several calls reported fires started by trees which had fallen on power lines. At least three residential structures and two commercial structures were damaged by wind or falling trees.

In total, 9-1-1 dispatch received 134 calls up from 32 the previous day. Seven calls were made to Emergency Management Services.

Cherokee on the Qualla Boundary was also left almost entirely without power, after a bulk power line was severed. Main power had been restored by the early morning hours. In Gaston County, two 500kV transmission line towers were toppled in the storm and a third was severely damaged.

A tree uprooted on Bingham Road crushing the end of a home where Tim Holbrook and his family reside.“While our crews are working as quickly and safely as possible to restore power, we also encourage members of the public to focus on their own personal safety,” said Jim Stanley on Tuesday. Stanley is Duke Energy’s senior vice president for power delivery. “It is important to stay away from downed or sagging power lines. All lines, as well as trees or limbs in contact with the lines, should be considered energized, and dangerous.”

Duke called in 300 additional workers from its Midwest area to assist in storm restoration work around the state. Restoration crews from other southeast utilities were also called in to assist, but as Duke’s regional manager Fred Alexander noted, many of these utilities had problems of their own.

Fortunately, no one was in that end of the house at the time and no injuries were reported.Duke estimated that some costumers in Macon County did not see their power restored until late Wednesday night. In Jackson and Swain counties, full restoration of service is predicted by noon Friday. Outage updates by county are provided at the Duke website: http://www.dukeenergy.com/north-carolina/outages/current.asp.

Duke Energy has released to following safety guidelines for downed power lines:

• Stay away from downed or sagging power lines, and do not touch anything that is on or near a power line (i.e., trees or tree limbs, cars, ladders).

• Keep children and family pets away from areas where lines may have fallen (backyards, fields, school yards, etc.).

• If a power line falls across a car that 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 that no part of your body is touching the car when your feet touch the ground.

Phillips Street was still closed to through traffic on Wednesday due to fallen trees and downed power lines.• Report all power line hazards to Duke Energy or your local emergency services department or agency.

If your power goes out, check to see if your neighbors have power. If your home is the only one without power, check your circuit breakers or fuses to determine if the outage is a result of a household problem. Contact Duke immediately.

• English: 1-800-POWERON (1-800-769-3766)

• Spanish: 1-866-4APAGON (1-866-427-2466)

• Online: If you have access to the Internet, report an outage using our online report form.

If you see downed power lines, assume they are dangerous and stay away!

Protect Your Appliances. Turn off lights and as many appliances and electronics as possible – including heating or air conditioning systems. You will help prevent circuit overload situations when your power is restored. You will also reduce the potential for damage to sensitive equipment such as computers, microwave ovens, televisions and recording devices.

Prepare an Emergency/Outage Kit. To help you prepare in case you face a power outage, we suggest you assemble an emergency kit. Consider including the items below:

• A flashlight with extra batteries (placed where you can find it in the dark)

High winds toppled this tower in Gaston County. Photo submitted by Duke Energy• A battery-powered radio and fresh batteries

• Canned foods that require no cooking

• A manual can opener

• First aid supplies

• Extra fuses

• A battery-powered or wind-up clock

Keep Food Safe. Help protect your food during a power outage by keeping your refrigerator and freezer doors closed as much as possible to maintain the cold temperature. Your refrigerator should keep food safely cold for about four hours if it is unopened. A full freezer should hold the temperature for approximately 48 hours if the door stays closed (about 24 hours if it is half full). Make sure you have items on hand that do not require refrigeration and can be eaten cold or heated outside on an outdoor grill.

To learn more about keeping food safe during a power outage, visit the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service Web site.





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published: 10/18/2013
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