Storm leaves tens of thousands in the dark

Mar. 07, 2014 @ 06:23 PM

Nearly 80 percent of High Point was in the dark Friday after one of the worst ice storms to hit the area in more than a decade.
City officials said about 32,000 of the city’s roughly 40,000 electric customers were still without power Friday evening.
The High Point area received between 1/4 and 3/4 of an inch of ice in the storm. The weight of the ice and wind gusts of up to 30 mph led to hundreds of downed trees and limbs, many of which struck power lines.
Crews made progress Friday on restoring power, but it could be Sunday before all city customers get their power back on, said Electric Department Director Garey Edwards.
“I think we got a half to three-quarters of an inch of ice. We have trees being uprooted with the weight of the ice on them — 100-foot trees toppling over,” he said. “We can deal with a half-inch, but with this much (ice) and the wind, it’s one of those events that’s going to take a while to deal with.”
City Manager Strib Boynton said Friday’s storm was comparable to the 2002 ice storm that paralyzed the city and surrounding areas for days.
“I don’t think this is quite that scale, but it’s pushing it,” he said. “By (Saturday) night, folks are going be getting anxious (if their power isn’t back on). By Sunday, they’re going to be real anxious.”
Edwards said a total of seven extra power crews were being brought in to help city electric workers with power restoration efforts. The constant falling of ice-covered trees and limbs on to power lines was making power restoration efforts difficult through much of Friday, officials said.
“Sometimes it comes back on, we get it restored and then a limb falls and we get another line down,” Boynton said. “We really need warmer weather to get everything back on.”
Edwards said power crews would work until late Friday night before stopping and then resuming early Saturday morning.
“They cannot accomplish a lot of work in the dark. If they could work until 1 or 2 in the morning to get everyone on, we would, but that’s not going to happen,” he said. “Typically, we try to get the hospital on first, along with water plants, wastewater plants and things like that, then we’ll go to the main lines and work our way out.”
Duke Energy reported that about 146,000 of its customers lost power in Guilford County, 45,000 in Randolph County and 30,000 in Davidson County.
Trees and limbs were down all over High Point and surrounding areas.
The city sent out crews from the Public Services, Fire and Parks and Recreation departments to clear trees from roadways as quickly and as safely as possible, Boynton said.
Trees that had wires associated with them were being handled by electric crews. The city will use boom trucks to pick them up later. Crews were also working to clear storm drains to prevent flooding.
Officials said areas of north and west High Point had the most downed trees.
Firefighters responded to 235 calls Friday, including dozens of calls involving trees on houses, 13 house fires, three building fires and 41 vehicle accidents, said Fire Chief Tommy Reid. No serious injuries were reported.
911 dispatchers were flooded with calls, including from some residents who could not get through on the city’s customer service line. Officials said extra staff was being brought in over the weekend to work the city’s call center.
--The Enterprise’s news partner WXII-TV contributed to this article


High Point officials advise city electric customers to call the city’s customer service line at 883-3111 to report power outages. Duke Power customers should call 1-800-POWERON.
Do not call 911 to report power outages. Call the city’s customer service number to report downed trees. Call 911 to report downed power lines or trees on power lines that are setting off sparks.
High Point firefighters are available to assist home-bound residents without power, such as those who are on oxygen.
The city reminded residents never to drive over downed power lines and to treat flashing red lights at intersections as four-way stops.
High Point’s Ingleside Compost Facility at 3001 Ingleside Drive will be open extended hours on Saturday and will be open on Sunday for residents who want to haul tree limbs and other storm debris for disposal.
Experts advise that, when using a chainsaw for tree cleanup, never work alone and always wear head and eye protection. Check for electrical hazards, never cut over your head, always keep both hands on the chainsaw handles and never cut with the tip of the saw.