NEWS IN THE WORLD OF POWER AND INTEGRATED BUILDING SYSTEMS
Severed Cable Cuts off Outer Banks Islands During Height of Summer
IN NORTH CAROLINA, on July 27, PCL Civil Constructors
working on the Herbert C. Bonner Bridge project, which spans
2. 8 miles and is the only connection between Hatteras Island and
Bodie Island, severed a three-phase, 115-kilovolt underground
transmission line. According to a statement from Cape Hatteras
Electric Cooperative (CHEC), the contractor was erecting
supports for the south side of the bridge and drove a steel casing
through the cable.
New River Electrical Corp., Cloverdale, Va., which installed
the original cable in 1995, arrived shortly after the incident to
assist PCL and CHEC in assessing the damage. The EC also
helped with restoration efforts.
The crews faced challenges as trenches flooded with
sea water from the Oregon Inlet but ultimately analyzed
the integrity of two other cables that serve the islands and
determined they were compromised as well.
Infrastructure serving the Outer Banks islands is somewhat
unique. The chain of islands off the coast of North Carolina
juts from the mainland, offering a single, narrow passage.
That geography is one of the main tourist attractions, but it
is problematic when disaster strikes because residents and
vacationers staying farther south in the chain can be cut off
from essential utilities and services.
During the outage, CHEC used a diesel generating plant in
Buxton and Frisco—two villages on Hatteras Island—as well
as nine generators, to provide temporary power. However, the
generating capacity was only able to meet minimum needs.
After determining the underground transmission repair
would take too long, CHEC and partners immediately began
erecting poles for an overhead transmission line solution.
Initially, CHEC said it could be up to two weeks to restore
power to the islands.
As a result, with the power outage, Dare County issued a
mandatory evacuation for Hatteras Island, and Hyde County
issued a mandatory evacuation for nonresidents staying on
According to Dorothy Hester, Dare County public
information officer, about 50,000 to 60,000 residents and visitors
On Aug. 3, CHEC announced power was restored, but
businesses and residents are claiming a substantial loss in
revenue because the area relies heavily on income from tourism.
On July 31, the law firm of Wallace & Graham announced it
was filing a class-action lawsuit against PCL.
“The complaint alleges that, in order to win the contract,
PCL claimed it could save $60 million or more by working
under an accelerated schedule,” the release states. “The
lawsuit claims that in the process of trying to proceed with the
work, the power lines were cut.”
The day the lawsuit was filed, Gov. Roy Cooper spoke about
the financial losses at a news conference.
“I do know we’re talking hundreds of millions of dollars for
our tourism on these islands every year,” Cooper said.
In the news conference, Cooper didn’t hesitate to place blame
and said he hopes businesses and individuals who have been
financially burdened from the outage can be reimbursed.
“Clearly, this was a company’s fault,” he said. “We should
work hard to make sure people are made as whole as possible.
We don’t know what the legal landscape is at the moment.”