NA Is­land busi­nesses fret about power out­age losses

Kuwait Times - - BUSINESS -

Apower out­age that drove tourists from two North Carolina is­lands wiped out a sig­nif­i­cant chunk of the lu­cra­tive sum­mer months for lo­cal busi­nesses. It could take days or weeks to re­pair an un­der­ground trans­mis­sion line dam­aged early Thurs­day by con­struc­tion crews work­ing on new a bridge be­tween is­lands.

Busi­ness own­ers were up­set that the dis­as­ter was caused by hu­man er­ror, not Mother Na­ture. The con­struc­tion com­pany drove a steel cas­ing into an un­der­ground trans­mis­sion line, caus­ing black­outs on Ocra­coke and Hat­teras is­lands. “It’s a hard pill to swal­low that some­one for­got where the power cable was,” said Ja­son Wells, owner of Ja­son’s Restau­rant on Ocra­coke Is­land. “How do you for­get where the power cable is?”

Wells said his restau­rant, closed by the out­age, is miss­ing out on at least $5,000 a day in sales. He said many sea­sonal busi­nesses close for one-third of the year, mak­ing the sum­mer months es­sen­tial to their bot­tom lines. His 25 work­ers typ­i­cally make be­tween $75 and $250 a day.

“So when you take this hit in July and fac­tor in that you’re only open eight months out of the year, it’s big,” he said. “It’s a lot more than peo­ple even re­al­ize.”

He es­ti­mated that to­tal losses for shops, ho­tels and res­tau­rants on the is­land could eas­ily top $100,000 per day. Cars lined up Fri­day to get on fer­ries, the only way off Ocra­coke Is­land, af­ter about 10,000 tourists were or­dered to evac­u­ate. Vis­i­tors to Hat­teras Is­land, south of Ore­gon In­let, were told to evac­u­ate by 6 am yes­ter­day.

Sev­eral evac­u­at­ing vis­i­tors said they were more wor­ried about the lo­cal busi­nesses than their short­ened va­ca­tions. “It’s go­ing to be hard on the econ­omy. I think that’s the thing that both­ers me the most,” said Stacy Hug­gins, a Vir­ginia res­i­dent leav­ing Ocra­coke Is­land on Fri­day. “They work re­ally hard dur­ing the tourist sea­son to cre­ate that ex­pe­ri­ence for ev­ery­body else, and the im­pact of this for them, eco­nom­i­cally, is go­ing to be re­ally, re­ally bad, re­ally dev­as­tat­ing for the next few weeks.”

The com­pany do­ing the bridge con­struc­tion, PCL Con­struc­tion, was dig­ging at the site Fri­day to de­ter­mine the ex­tent of the dam­age to the un­der­ground trans­mis­sion line. A bet­ter es­ti­mate of how long the power would be out was ex­pected dur­ing the next day or two.

Emer­gency gen­er­a­tors were brought in, but they were in­tended to power only ne­ces­si­ties such as re­frig­er­a­tors and fans. Dawn Tay­lor opened up the doors and win­dows in her home on Hat­teras Is­land to keep it as cool as pos­si­ble. Tay­lor works at a gift shop that fea­tures clay pot­tery and other crafts. The shop was slated to hold three classes on Fri­day, but the out­age scut­tled those plans.

While her shop may have lost classes, Tay­lor is wor­ried that oth­ers are los­ing even more. Hat­teras and Ocra­coke is­lands have about 5,000 per­ma­nent res­i­dents. “We just re­ally have to ride it out and wait and see,” she said. “But there are so many on the is­land who live pay­check to pay­check. How are they go­ing to make it? “No one’s in the cot­tages. They’re not go­ing to the res­tau­rants. It all trick­les down,” Tay­lor said. “It af­fects ev­ery­one on the is­land.”

One of the few Ocra­coke res­tau­rants that stayed open with its own gen­er­a­tor was Howard’s Pub, but owner Ann Warner said busi­ness had plum­meted as tourists streamed off the is­land. Her restau­rant would usu­ally be packed for Fri­day lunch. “It’s sort of like some­one came in with a sweeper,”Warner said. —AP

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