Power restored to the Outer Banks by the weekend?

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Wednesday, August 2, 2017
Cape Hatteras Electric Cooperative Tweeted the above image on Wednesday, August 3, 2017: "Working to connect the new overhead transmission cable! Timeframe for repair is 2-3 days."
wtvd-Cape Hatteras Electric Cooperative

OUTER BANKS, North Carolina (WTVD) -- The latest on power loss on two North Carolina islands:

* Power could be restored in 1-2 days
* Tourists, visitors remain barred from the area, but could be allowed back as soon as Saturday
* Dare County officials say they are coordinating to bring the "safe return of visitors as soon as possible."
* NASA releases a photo of the power outage from space

If things stay on track, power could be restored to the Outer Banks over the weekend.

Thursday morning, officials announced they have tightened the time frame again for complete restoration of power to 1 to 2 days. If that stays on track, it could mean power would be restored to the area as soon as Friday or Saturday.

According to the Cape Hatteras Electric Cooperative, crews worked overnight to connect new overhead cables to the grid. That work is expected to be completed this morning and the next step is energizing the new line.

According to CHEC, "the new line will need to stay energize for several hours while the cooperative tests the cables. After testing, CHEC will begin to gradually introduce electrical load to the line. Residents on Hatteras Island in the villages of Rodanthe, Waves, Salvo, Avon and Buxton will experience outages while the cooperative works to take these circuits off of generator power and energize them with the repaired transmission line."

Dare County officials say they are coordinating with the electric company to bring the "safe return of visitors as soon as possible."

Meanwhile, one family took to the sky to ironically voice their frustration over the power outage. A plane carrying a banner that said "call before you dig" was seen flying over the Outer Banks. The phrase is in reference to a power industry initiative to call them before you dig and potentially hit a power line.

Outer Banks plane flies 'Call before you dig' banner

The loss of all power to Hatteras and Ocracoke islands caused authorities to order tourists to evacuate.

On Monday, Whitfield, Bryson & Mason LLP filed a lawsuit against PCL Civil Constructors Inc.

The firm is working with two vacation rental owners and one business owner who were affected by the blackout.

RELATED: Class-action lawsuit filed over Outer Banks blackout

On Monday, Gov. Roy Cooper visited Bonner Bridge where three electric transmission cables were damaged, causing the evacuation of tourists from two islands on North Carolina's Outer Banks.

The bridge spans the Oregon Inlet. Three cables were damaged Thursday by a construction company building a new bridge parallel to the current one.

After the stop, Cooper made his way to businesses in Rodanthe, south of the bridge on Hatteras Island.

RELATED STORY: Outer Banks tourists, residents make best of 'OBXblackout'

During a news conference, Cooper said the people of the Outer Banks are resilient and will overcome this hardship.

"Clearly, the Outer Banks have faced storms before that have knocked out power so this is not anything that's unfamiliar," said Cooper. "I will tell you this, the people on the Outer Banks are resilient and even when a tough nor'easter or tough storm comes they're up and back and running as quick as anybody you'd ever see. But this is a little bit different in that this is a man-made accident that has occurred here and it's a different situation, but I have no doubt that they will be back and in action as quick as that power is turned on."

Transportation Secretary Jim Trogdon had said it would take 1-2 weeks to restore electricity; however, he said if a tropical storm hits, crews will evaluate progress on a day by day basis.

Electric cooperatives are using generators on the two islands after PCL Construction accidentally drove a steel casing into the underground transmission cable.

In order to restore power, officials at Cape Hatteras Electric Cooperative said: "the first solution is to continue excavating the damaged cables and work to splice them back together; repairs have already begun on the first excavated cable. The second solution is to build a new overhead transmission line that would run from the south end of the Bonner Bridge to meet the cooperative's existing overhead transmission line. Cape Hatteras Electric Cooperative will actively pursue both of these solutions until it is clear which of these will provide the fastest and safest option for a full repair. Depending on which solution turns out to be the most practical, the timeline for a complete repair could vary from one to two weeks."

The mandatory evacuation order for all visitors to Hatteras Island and became effective at 6 a.m. on Saturday. The evacuation order included the villages of Rodanthe, Waves, Salvo, Avon, Buxton, Frisco, and Hatteras. The evacuation order does not include any areas north of Oregon Inlet. All areas north of Oregon Inlet remain open with no restrictions in place.

MORE: Outer Banks outage means evacuations, ruined vacations

About 50,000 people were evacuated Saturday while residents were stuck using generators.

Gov. Roy Cooper signed an emergency declaration Thursday night. He said the declaration removes restrictions on weight and the hours of service for fuel, utility and other truck drivers that may be working to deliver supplies and other resources needed to restore power.

Cape Hatteras Electric Cooperative said its crews worked to provide intermittent power from a nearby diesel generating plant and two portable generators. Officials said the portable generators struggled to carry the load on the circuits, and people are being asked to minimize usage.

While crews work to fix the damage, Cooper said he's supplying state resources to help neighbors manage the crisis. But it's not just residents feeling the effects, local businesses are taking a hit too.

"The average vehicle is $15," said Cedar Island Ferry worker Myrna Willis. "Well, for each one of those people refunded the state's losing that $15 back into that person's pocket, we are losing."

And that loss is trickling down to convenience stores like Island's Choice.

"Usually everyone knows this is the last stop before getting on the ferry, so they'll usually stop, gas up, come get a drink, use the restroom, and it's not been that way today, people are not coming in," said owner Sherman Goodwin.

As for vacationers, Cooper said this is an opportunity to enjoy North Carolina's many other beaches.

"You've got the northern part of the Outer Banks and lots of good beaches and vacations spots right here in North Carolina and we're ready for you."

The Associated Press contributed to this report