As heavy snow continues to fall across the Carolinas, power outages keep climbing in Mecklenburg County, with more that 14,000 reported around 1 p.m.
At 9 a.m. Duke Energy reported about 460 outages around the Charlotte area, according to the company’s online outage map. Shortly before 11 a.m., the numbers had jumped to nearly 7,000 reports and more than 11,100 reports had come in by 11:30 a.m.
As snow falls on trees, limbs and power lines around Mecklenburg County - already heavy with ice from the sleet overnight - the lines themselves break or the trees snap and fall into power lines, said Duke Energy spokesperson Meghan Musgrave.
Since daybreak, the Charlotte-Mecklenburg area has seen a steady increase in outages, mainly in the southern portions of the county, but as far north as outside uptown, according to Duke Energy’s online outage map.
Some residents in the Sedgefield area said they lost power shortly before 10 a.m. and were told Duke Energy hoped to have it restored by 12:30 p.m.
“Crews are working as quickly and safely as possible to get the lights back on,” Musgrave said, noting it’s hard to estimate the point of restoration with such widespread power loss.
While road conditions aren’t ideal, Musgrave said, damage assessors are out inspecting damage to lines and equipment first, so they can get the necessary items for repair.
Duke Energy estimates nearly 3,400 crews will be in the field across the Carolinas working to restore power Thursday. At 1 p.m., more than 36,000 outages were reported in the Duke Energy Carolinas service area alone.
As of 11 a.m., about 500 workers were en route to the Carolinas from Duke Energy’s midwest operations in Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana, Musgrave said. It was unclear where those workers would go first, as crews work to determine which areas have sustained the most damage.
Around 9 a.m., Duke Energy reported about 185,000 outages across the entirety of its service area, spokesperson Jennifer Jabon said. Duke Energy has about 3.2 million customers in North Carolina and another 715,000 in South Carolina.
Officials later said outages are split almost evenly between the two states: about 98,000 in South Carolina and roughly 92,000 in North Carolina.
“We are expecting more snow across the region, with some possibility of that being a wintery mix. Anything with ice or freezing rain can cause power outages,” Jabon said.
“We’re encouraging customers to be prepared for what may be multi-day outages,” she said, adding that food, water, batteries and flashlights are among recommended preparedness items.
Duke officials also encouraged those that are able to check on friends, neighbors, the elderly or those with known specials needs.
The Union Power Cooperative, which covers more than 69,000 homes and businesses in Union, Mecklenburg, Stanly, Cabarrus and Rowan counties, reported two outages at 1 p.m., affecting roughly 100 customers
The Electric Cooperatives of S.C. estimated around 6 a.m. that more than 137,000 members were without power, after moisture moved into the upstate area overnight. At 11 p.m. Wednesday, officials estimated 120,000 members had experienced outage.
At 10:30 a.m. Thursday, officials with N.C’s electric cooperatives – which serves more than 2.5 million customers in 93 of the state’s 100 counties – estimated there were fewer than 16,000 outages statewide.
Blue Ridge Electric Membership Corp. – which serves roughly 74,000 members in Caldwell, Watauga, Ashe, Alleghany, Wilkes, Avery and Alexander Counties – reported one outage in Ashe County at 1 p.m.
Preparing for the worst
At a press conference Wednesday, Gov. Pat McCrory said, “This is going to be a tough 48 hours, but we have a good team ready to respond.... We need every individual to be ready in their homes and workplaces. Have your flashlights and batteries ready.”
In South Carolina, Gov. Nikki Haley said the storm was going to be worse than the one in 2004 where more than 200,000 people lost power.
Check back for more updates.
Trenda: 704-358-5089; Twitter: @htrenda