CAPE HATTERAS, NC (WVEC) - A mandatory evacuation has been issued for Hatteras Island, just one day after Ocracoke Island issued a similar evacuation, Dare County officials said Friday evening.
It's the second day without power for thousands on the Outer Banks.
The new evacuation mandate for Hatteras Island orders that all visitors leave the island starting 6 a.m. Saturday.
The evacuation does not affect any areas north of Oregon Inlet, which will remain open with no restrictions in place.
Late Thursday night, Governor Roy Cooper declared a state of emergency to help address the problem.
Also coming down on Thursday were orders for tourists to evacuate Ocracoke Island. About 10,000 travelers had to take the long ferry ride back to Cedar and Hatteras Islands. All visitors are supposed to be gone from Ocracoke by noon.
Hatteras Island is also dealing with its own blackouts from the outage. The Cape Hatteras Electric Cooperative says PCL Construction took responsibility for the massive outage. That's the company building the new Bonner Bridge. They supposedly drove a steel casing into an underground transmission cable during construction.
PCL says they're working with NC DOT to figure out exactly how it happened.
Generators bring limited power for some
On Thursday evening, CHEC tweeted that it was providing power to some customers on Hatteras Island through two portable generators and said it hoped to power up seven more portable generators on Friday.
Customers in the villages of Buxton and Frisco on Hatteras Island were among those receiving power from the generators, Dare County officials said in a statement.
CHEC is urging residents who do have power back on, to conserve energy. That means no laundry loads, no running the dishwasher, and keeping the AC units turned off. You can keep your refrigerators plugged in and your ceiling fans running, but that's the extent of how much power you're being asked to use right now.
If people use too much power, that can trip up those generators, which is why officials are urging people to conserve as much as possible.
The Dare County Water Department also asked Hatteras Island residents to conserve their water use because the outage was limiting production capacity. The water is safe to drink, however.
More portable generators are being brought in, and officials are working to find out how bad the damage is to that transmission line that was hit. Depending on how bad it is, it could be days or weeks before its repaired.
Tourists deal with setbacks
About 9,000 customers were without power on the two islands. The outage comes at the height of tourist season, which runs from June through Labor Day.
Vacationer Erica Plouffe Lazure was visiting Ocracoke Island from Exeter, N.H., but because of the outage, had to cut her trip short and head instead to Elizabeth City. The motel she'd booked on Ocracoke fired up a generator, but the generator exploded minutes after it started, Lazure said.
"There's a lot of hot, sweaty people here," she said, adding that she tried to find another motel farther north along the North Carolina coast, but they were either full or charging as much as $500 a night.
"This is a beautiful island and I waited two years to come back here because it's one of my favorite places in the world," Lazure said. "I'm a little bummed that the power has gotten in the way, but ... next time."
Laura Ertle, spokeswoman for the New River Electric Corp., the Roanoke, Va.-based company that erected the cable on the original Bonner Bridge, said she sympathizes with the tourists.
"We know that people are spending a lot of money to come down here and they look forward to their vacation on Hatteras Island every year," Ertle said. "We know that they're getting frustrated, but we just really appreciate their patience."
Ertle said representatives from her company will help dig up the cable that was damaged.
At the very least, it's going to be a very long weekend for the residents and businesses until officials can get a better handle of the situation.
Contributing: Melanie Eversley, USA TODAY and The Associated Press
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