Mainland sees no immediate effects from power outage

Published 6:57 pm Wednesday, August 9, 2017

HYDE COUNTY — Ocracoke Island took an economic hit as a power outage forced thousands to evacuate almost two weeks ago, but on mainland Hyde County, it was mostly business as usual, according to Hyde County Manager Bill Rich.

“The biggest impact to the mainland is going to be county’s loss of sales tax,” Rich said. “We’re collecting information from … everybody in Ocracoke that had any loss, and we’re settling that now.”

Rich said the Swan Quarter area is not usually a stopping point for travelers heading to Ocracoke, as gas and groceries are usually purchased in Washington and Belhaven before arriving at the ferry landing. Because of this, there was no substantial influx of people coming to the mainland after evacuating, he said.

“I don’t know where they went,” Rich said. “It would depend on whether they were cottage renters or hotel renters.”

Rich said he believes Columbia likely saw more of a difference from the evacuation, as that town is a common stopping point for vacationers heading to Hatteras Island, which also lost power.

Some people on extended vacations traveled to Carteret County, as well, to wait out the power outage, according to Rich. Others had no choice but to go home.

On July 27, construction crews working on Bonner Bridge damaged a transmission cable, leaving a portion of the Outer Banks in the dark. Non-residents on Ocracoke and Hatteras islands were ordered to evacuate while utility crews struggled to correct generator problems and restore power. Officials asked residents to conserve energy for days.

County officials do not have exact numbers for losses sustained during vacation season, but rough estimates are beginning to surface.

“What I’ve been hearing is that this nine days that everybody lost represents about 15 percent of the entire income of the season for the year,” Rich said.

He said this is a good estimate of revenue lost, and it would equate to hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Rich said he is grateful to Tideland Electric Membership Corp. for helping the island restore generator power in record speed — “absolutely unbelievable,” he said.

Days may have progressed normally on the mainland during the power disaster, but only time — and more research — will provide a clear picture of the damage done at Ocracoke.

“I know it was a long, long process,” Rich said.