Monday, July 31, 2017

Stun of the Beach

Today will be the fifth day of a huge power outage that is ruining everything for people living, working and vacationing on North Carolina's Outer Banks.  This is affecting Dare and Hyde counties, where all non-residents on Hatteras and Ocracoke Islands were told to vacate their vacations.  The outage was caused by a construction company wedging a steel casing into an underground electrical transmission cable.

The lights (and the televisions and the stoves and the toasters and the hairdryers) went out Thursday, when some ill-guided construction team, apparently in error, cut the line.  But not until yesterday did the "powers that be" (or powers that aren't powered) figure out how bad things are, and it isn't good. All three transmission cables that bring the juice to the Banks had been "compromised," Dare County officials said. They've brought in emergency generators to keep the local houses and vital services cranked up, but the county spokeswoman, Dorothy Hester, says not that the're no way to say when tourists can come back and life can return to the usual mid-summer normal. 

For the remaining locals, the little power being generated is barely enough.  There's no air conditioning, no hot tubs, no extra appliances beyond those we need to see in the dark.

"This right now is the height of the season, when many businesses make the income they need to sustain themselves through the fall and winter," Hester said. "Believe me, we just want to get power back to everybody as soon as we can."

I believe her.  You couldn't have chosen a more horrible week to yank the plug out of the tourist business down there than the end of July/beginning of August.

"Most (visitors) have cleared out," said Justin Herrmann, a sales associate at Real Watersports on Hatteras Island. "We provide lessons, and that has slowed down quite a bit. We do a lot of online sales, but overall we're definitely losing a lot of business right now."

Ms Hester said there are 6,000 permanent residents, and of course that number burgeons in the summer, and people who own and work for hotels, shops, restaurants and other tourist-type businesses are now sitting around counting the money lost as every car drives away with money to be spent in other hotels, shops, restaurants and so forth.  

And - people who don't have rental insurance on their dream vacay might be shipped out of luck. The outgoing message at Outer Beaches Realty told renters not to come down until the evacuation order has been taken down, and that refunds were the decision of insurance providers.

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Sad exodus 
I know several people who had their vacations ruined by this, and I am as sorry as I can be for them. And this might be a bad time to bring this up, but the whole deal serves to remind us that many times we are just one cut cable away from trouble.  Just one guy sloppily operating a pile driver on Thursday, and now look at the millions of dollars lost and hopes dashed. Airports regularly report "near misses" (which are more accurately known as "near hits) in which disaster was averted by a matter of 15 yards. We may never how close Three Mile Island came to melting like a nuclear cake out in the rain, and how wonderful it is that the brakes never fail on that 18-wheeler packed with canned beef stew that was six inches behind you on the way down I-95 the other day.

Just be glad when you ride in the elevator today, on the way to the office, that those cables never snap. 

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