Hurricane Irene Aftermath
September 15, 2011 Facebook TwitterMore...

Tropical storm and coastal low could threaten temporary power lines

By IRENE NOLAN


Officials at the Cape Hatteras Electric Cooperative are keeping their fingers crossed late this week and into the weekend as swells from Tropical Storm Maria and a coastal trough that will form behind a cold front bring heavy seas to an already damaged area on northern Hatteras Island.

New New Inlet was cut by Hurricane Irene on Aug. 27 in the Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge, severing Hatteras Island and taking out parts of Highway 12 at the inlet and several smaller breaches.

The southern shoreline of the inlet continues to erode, and took a beating last week in heavy seas and large breaking waves churned up when Hurricane Katia passed well offshore of the Outer Banks.

At one point, according to CHEC, the inlet was eroding at five to six feet a day in the area where the power provider had erected temporary structures to carry the 115kV transmission lines across the inlet and down to the villages of Hatteras and Ocracoke.

CHEC said that the temporary structure on the south side of New New Inlet was 90 feet from the water when it was installed about a week after the storm. Today cooperative officials said the poles were now just 40 feet from the still eroding south shore of the cut.

CHEC and North Carolina Department of Transportation crews are working together to protect the power lines, and a photo taken this morning shows the southern structure surrounded by sandbags.

 The area where the poles have been erected and where NCDOT is working on a temporary bridge across the inlet took a beating in Katia last week.  Water pouring onto the sand road that had been restored at the S-curves north of Rodanthe brought road work to a halt for a day or so.

Today and tonight, the coast will be affected by a lesser swell from Tropical Storm Maria’s passage – again well offshore of the Outer Banks and closer to Bermuda.

This afternoon, Maria’s winds were 70 mph and the storm was moving quickly off to the northeast. The swells will peak tonight, forecasters say, at about 4 to 5 feet.

However, tonight a strong cold front will pass offshore, bringing an extended stretch of cooler, drizzly weather. 

A strong high pressure will build over the northeastern U.S. and wedge down into the Carolinas through the weekend as a coastal low pressure area forms offshore. The pressure gradient between the high to the north and the offshore low will bring strong winds from the northeast and high seas at least until Monday. 

Forecasters at the National Weather Service office in Newport, N.C., are predicting northeast winds of 15-25 knots and 7- to 10-foot seas Saturday and Sunday, perhaps lingering into next week.

This morning CHEC sent an e-mail to county officials and the media, saying that the cooperative was concerned that the temporary structures might be “compromised” because of weather conditions and further erosion at the inlet.

“CHEC continues to closely monitor the temporarily restored 115kV transmission line at the breach points near Pea Island,” the e-mail said.  “Wave action from Hurricane Katia last week caused significant erosion and growth of the inlet and breach points where temporary transmission structures have been placed.  With increased wind and swell forecasts for this weekend, CHEC stands ready to provide emergency power to the island in the event that the temporary repair is compromised by the eroding inlet.” 

CHEC said it could use the Buxton and Ocracoke diesel generation plants, along with the two 2-megawatt Caterpillar generators located in the tri-villages, to provide power if there is a problem with the transmission lines. 

“However,” the e-mail continued, “CHEC cannot guarantee all Hatteras Island villages continuous emergency power due to the increased numbers of residents and homeowners, and the anticipated influx of non-resident visitors this weekend.”

All of the villages on Hatteras and Ocracoke were on emergency generator power for about a week after the hurricane, but that was before residents who evacuated and non-resident property owners were allowed to return.

The temporary transmission lines took over the load and began bringing in power from the north late on Monday, Sept. 5.

CHEC says that it continues to work with NCDOT to formulate a permanent restoration plan for the 115kV transmission line.   


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