- Associated Press - Wednesday, January 29, 2014

PANTEGO, N.C. (AP) - A combination of ice and strong winds plunged residents of Ocracoke Island into darkness twice within a 24-hour period Wednesday.

Tideland EMC spokeswoman Heidi Smith said customers on the island first lost power at 5 a.m. Smith said the problem occurred when winds picked up while ice was still on power lines, causing the lines to jump up and down. That motion snapped a cross arm and brought down some wires.

After restoring power to the island, more windy conditions helped bring down more lines and caused another blackout around 2 p.m. Power was restored for a second time at 4:25 p.m.

Smith said work crews were attempting to get the ice off the power lines before sunset.

“Those lines are built to withstand normal winds. It’s the ice that adds so much weight,” Smith said. “Even when the breeze dies down, those lines continue to flap around.”

Smith said Tideland, based in Pantego, approached a record for peak demand, in part because the lack of propane gas in the area means customers rely on space heaters to stay warm.

“We’ve become a winter-peaking utility,” she said. “For us, we have no natural gas in our territory and the predominant means of heating in our part of the world is some type of electric heat.”

Officials list Ocracoke’s year-round population at approximately 950 people.

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