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Duke Energy estimates 750,000 could lose power

Duke Energy on Saturday projected that up to 750,000 households and businesses in the Carolinas could lose power when a major winter storm marches into region.

In advance of the storm, which could span two days, Duke Energy has strategically staged more than 10,000 workers – power line technicians, damage assessors and vegetation workers – across North Carolina and South Carolina. About 4,100 of those workers are from other companies, some based in Texas and Oklahoma.

The more than 10,000 total workers also include Duke Energy crews normally based in Florida, Indiana, Ohio and Kentucky who have traveled to the Carolinas to assist North Carolina- and South Carolina-based Duke Energy workers. All crews are ready to begin power restoration as soon as weather conditions safely allow.

Ice-buildup on trees and branches that causes them to fall on power lines is usually the main culprit behind power outages during a winter storm. Specifically, ice buildup of a quarter-inch or more is often the threshold amount that causes trees and branches to topple.

The heavy weight of significant ice buildup directly on power lines themselves can sometimes cause the lines to fall or sag, as well. Heavy, wet snow of six inches or more also can cause trees and branches to fall on power lines.

Duke Energy meteorologists continue to monitor weather conditions and the company is making plans accordingly. Travel conditions could be hazardous and challenging after the storm passes, possibly delaying Duke Energy crews’ ability to access hard-hit areas to assess storm damage and begin power restoration.

Following the storm, as conditions permit, damage assessment crews will begin assessing extent of damage – which can sometimes take 24 hours or more in major storms with widespread damage and hazardous driving conditions.

Damage assessments determine the types of crews, equipment and supplies needed to restore power.

Power restoration crews will begin working immediately after the storm, but restoration efficiency improves as damage assessment information is available to ensure the right workers and materials are dispatched to each power outage location.

Duke Energy will provide estimated power restoration times to customers once damage assessments are completed. The company also will provide regular updates to customers and communities through emails, text messages, outbound phone calls, social media and its website, which includes power outage maps.

The company is working closely with state officials in both North Carolina and South Carolina to prepare for the storm.

Duke Energy serves 4.3 million customers in the Carolinas – 3.5 million in North Carolina; 800,000 in South Carolina.

Customers can take steps now to prepare for the storm:

Ensure an adequate supply of flashlights, batteries, bottled water, non-perishable foods, medicines, etc., as well as the availability of a portable, battery-operated radio, TV or weather radio. Customers should make alternate shelter arrangements as needed if you will be significantly impacted by a loss of power – especially families who have special medical needs or elderly members.

If a power line falls across a car that you’re in, stay in the car. If you MUST get out of the car due to a fire or other immediate life-threatening situation, do your best to jump clear of the car and land on both feet. Be sure that no part of your body is touching the car when your feet touch the ground.

Be aware that snow can cause hazardous driving conditions resulting in traffic accidents and downed power poles resulting in isolated outages. If you are driving and encounter emergency responders or other roadside work crews, remember to MOVE OVER. If you use a generator due to a power outage, follow the manufacturer’s instructions to ensure safe and proper operation. Operate your generator outside; never operate it inside a building or garage.

Don’t use grills or other outdoor appliances or equipment indoors for space heating or cooking, as these devices may emit carbon monoxide.

Stay away from power lines that have fallen or are sagging. Consider all lines energized as well as trees or limbs in contact with lines. Please report downed power lines to Duke Energy or local emergency services.

Be prepared for an emergency by purchasing an emergency preparedness kit from the Red Cross.

How to protect refrigerated food during power outages

For customers who lose power and have full refrigerators and freezers, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommends the following:

Keep refrigerator and freezer doors closed as much as possible to maintain the cold temperature.

A refrigerator can keep food cold for about four hours if it is unopened. If the power will be out for more than four hours, use coolers to keep refrigerated food cold.

A full freezer will keep the temperature for approximately 48 hours (24 hours if it is half full) if the door remains closed.