Profits, memories lost as N. Carolina islands restore power

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RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — Repair crews worked Monday to restore electricity to more than 70 miles (112 kilometers) of Outer Banks beaches where thousands of visitors were forced to leave last week after construction crews building a new bridge sliced through power lines.

About 50,000 visitors had to depart Hatteras and Ocracoke islands.

"This situation has hurt, so every day is important to the economy of this part of our state," Gov. Roy Cooper said Monday while visiting the repair site. "We're talking about hundreds of millions of dollars for our tourism on these islands every year."

Forced to abandon plans for her annual beach getaway to Ocracoke, Carla Atkinson and her daughter were taking their money elsewhere.

"When it was clear that we weren't going to make it to Ocracoke this week, we decided to head north. We're going to Virginia Beach where we have family," said Atkinson, a writer and editor in Raleigh.

She said the small, family-run vacation rental company she used promised to redeem her deposit. But since the power outage wasn't due to a natural disaster, many vacationers were being told they would lose their money. Cooper said he would speak to state Attorney General Josh Stein about whether there was anything that could be done for those visitors.

In the hopes of getting people back on the beaches in the next two weeks repair crews were churning ahead on two fronts to see which method would restore the power flow faster.

Some were excavating the damaged cables in order to splice them together, while other crews were installing an overhead transmission line for less than a mile from the Bonner Bridge to connect with existing lines.

Power companies also were working to find and install enough generators to let tourists back in the middle of vacation season.

About 5,000 residents on Hatteras Island, the 70-mile-long stretch that includes the Cape Hatteras lighthouse, were warned against using air conditioning that would share power being provided by a generator, Cape Hatteras Electric Cooperative spokeswoman Laura Ertle said. Further south, Ocracoke Island's generators were providing enough power for that area's 1,000 or so residents to run any household conveniences, though there wasn't enough juice to accommodate visitors, Tideland Electric Membership Corp. Heidi Smith said.

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