Powered Down: Outage puts thousands in the dark

Published 10:41 pm Monday, December 31, 2012

WDN Photo | Mona Moore

The City of Washington, along with power customers in many parts of the county, spent several hours in the dark on the last day of 2012.
The power went down at approximately 2:30 p.m. and restored at 4:45 p.m.
According to Paige Layne, spokesman for Progress Energy, the issue was with Progress Energy’s feeder line into the a main substation in Chocowinity, cutting power to approximately 5,900 Progress Energy customers in four counties, 14,000 Washington Utilities customers within the City of Washington and 3,517 Tideland EMC customers on the south side of the Pamlico
River. The cause of the outage was unidentified as of deadline.
Shortly after the power went down, local law enforcement set about directing traffic at major intersections and patrolling the streets.
Washington police and some member of Washington Fire-Rescue-EMS were set up at the intersections of Fifth and Market streets, Carolina Avenue and 15th Street, 15th and Market streets, Fifth Street and Clarks Neck Road. Before police arrived at the intersection of Fifth and Bridge streets, an accident caused a small SUV to flip and sent three people to the hospital. The two vehicles — one traveling east on Fifth Street, the other, south on N.C. Highway 17— collided in the busy intersection.
“Basically, we believe the accident was caused by inattention.” said Lt. William Chrismon, spokesman for the Washington Police Department, adding that the accident is still under investigation. “Luckily everyone was wearing their seatbelts and there were no major injuries. They were shook up a lot, but not really hurt.”
Other incidents caused by the power outage included another accident at 15th Street and Minuteman Lane and a near fire at an apartment on Hackney Avenue. Chrismon said a resident of one unit left a pot on the stove when the electricity went out and had neglected to turn the burner off. Neighbors called authorities before the smoking pot could start a fire.
“It smoked up one of three residences on Hackney Avenue,” Chrismon said. “It could have a been a lot worse if the neighbors hadn’t been home.”
Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office deputies amped up patrols throughout outage areas.
“Everyone we had with sworn status was out patrolling the areas without power,” said Maj. Kenneth Watson, spokesman for the sheriff’s office. “Some of the businesses were closing down so we increased our patrol business because of the increased risk of potential criminal acts during a power outage.”
Law enforcement officials agreed everyone seemed to take the outage in stride, and that, were it to happen, it happened at the right time of day, citing the likely increase of emergency situations like accidents caused by disable traffic lights and no heat in freezing overnight temperatures and accidents caused by disabled traffic lights.
“The power has been off before,” said Chief of Washington Police and Fire Services Stacy Drakeford. “It was just a rarity that that much power was off.”