Power nearly restored

Published 12:59 am Saturday, September 3, 2011

One week after Hurricane Irene, life slowly returning to normal

Most Beaufort County residents who lost power during Hurricane Irene had their electricity restored by the end of the week.

As of Friday morning, Washington Electric Utilities had returned service to nearly 100 percent of its customers, except those whose homes required reconnects due to broken meter bases or other problems yet to be repaired, said Keith Hardt, electric director.

As of Friday afternoon, city crews and contract crews were still out backtracking, in places were service had been restored, to clean up any broken utility poles or hardware that may have been left behind, Hardt said.

Tree crews were still trimming trees and taking down some damaged trees that posed dangers to electric lines, he said.

Any WEU customer who still doesn’t have power should call the utility at 252-975-9320. This number may be called at any time of the day or night, according to Hardt.

“Any trees that we’ve cut down to get the power back up we don’t go back and pick that debris up,” he advised. “Those belong to the customers.”

The N.C. Department of Transportation is arranging to pick up vegetative, storm-related debris on state-maintained roads, he pointed out.

The city is picking up vegetative debris stacked alongside city-maintained streets, Hardt said.

Progress Energy also had brought power back to 100 percent of its customers in the area as of midnight Friday, said spokesman Jeff Brooks.

Some isolated customers’ properties required additional work, and any Progress Energy customer who didn’t have power was asked to call the utility, he said.

“It’s entirely possible, given the scale of the storm, that there may be a customer that is not accounted for in that count,” he said.

Brooks added, “We appreciate our customers’ patience as we work through this process.”

Tideland Electric Membership Corp. had 1,571 Beaufort County customers without power as of 5:21 p.m. Friday.

“We are still awaiting word as to how many of those will not be able to be reconnected,” said spokeswoman Heidi Smith, who added some of these homes might not be habitable now and would be unsafe to reconnect.

Other services are getting back to normal as well.

As of Friday, Beaufort County had lifted a post-storm boil-water advisory for all its customers, said Jim Chrisman, interim county manager.

And the Federal Emergency Management Agency opened a temporary office next to Woogie’s restaurant off U.S. Highway 17 in Chocowinity. The office was fully operational by 1 p.m. Friday, said Marvin Davis, FEMA spokesman.

The office will be open from 8 a.m. until 7 p.m. seven days a week until further notice, Davis said.

Storm victims who have questions about federal help or wish to apply for such help are asked to call FEMA at 1-800-621 FEMA (3362).

Food provided

The Washington corps of the Salvation Army had overseen the feeding of a little more than 16,000 people in five counties since the storm, said Lt. Chris Lyles.

“Some of the areas we’ve just now been able to get in over the last few days because they had bridges down, roads closed,” Lyles said.

The Salvation Army has pulled back its mobile feeding units as power has become available and other charitable entities have flowed into the region, Lyles related. As of Friday, feeding sites were open in Hyde, Tyrrell and Beaufort counties.

In Beaufort County, the kitchen that had been sited at Piggly Wiggly in Aurora was moved to Edward to meet needs there, Lyles said, adding feeding service also had been up and running at Pamlico Beach.

The local corps is taking financial donations, as always, but isn’t accepting donations of clothing because its Washington store and warehouse were affected by Irene, Lyles said. After it’s refurbished, its flooded carpets ripped out and replaced, the store could be reopened in about a month, he said.

“It’s been a devastating storm,” Lyles observed.

Anyone who has questions about the help the Salvation Army is giving should call the Washington corps office at 252-946-2523.

Legislative viewpoints

Beaufort County’s state legislative delegation has toured parts of the county to view storm damage.

Rep. Bill Cook, R-Beaufort, was basically pleased with the response by local officials.

Cook reserved his highest praise for John Pack, the county’s emergency management coordinator, his staff and colleagues for preparing people ahead of Irene.

“I think, generally speaking, there was a good job done by a lot of people in reacting to this storm,” Cook said. “I think we faced quite a challenge with that storm.”

Cook did wish aloud there had been earlier word on DOT’s plan to facilitate the removal of limbs and other vegetative debris on state roadsides.

Overall, the recovery is going “as well as can be expected, given the size and the magnitude of that storm,” he said.

Sen. Stan White, D-Dare, visited almost all of the county’s towns this week.

“I have really seen a lot of devastation,” White said. “Of course, in the Aurora area it was probably as bad as any place in this district.”

White said he knows a few families were displaced in the Belhaven area, and added he’s working to get FEMA trailers in where they’re necessary.

White said he worked to get a waiver for owners of private properties to let prison inmates get debris off those properties.

“These elderly folks just don’t have the resources to do it,” he said.

Anyone with questions about locally available services should call their county’s emergency operations center, he said.

Beaufort County’s emergency management office may be reached at 252-946-2046.