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Most homes have power back; 1,000 still in the dark

A lineman works on a power line on Greenville Highway near Rutledge Drive. A lineman works on a power line on Greenville Highway near Rutledge Drive.

More than 6,000 Duke Energy customers remained without power on Monday morning, with the largest outages caused by the weekend ice storm in the Kanuga, Tuxedo and Spartan Heights areas, officials said. Utility crews got the power back on to 14,000 homes and businesses on Sunday, when there was a high of 20,800 outages at noon, and with reinforcements on the ground today officials expect substantial progress getting 6,138 customers back up. By nightfall, the number of outages was down to 1,011.

"In addition to the over 350 personnel who assisted (Sunday), we will be bringing in an additional 330 resources in the morning to assist our local crews at the Hendersonville Ops Center," Craig DeBrew, community relations manager for Duke Energy, said in an update Sunday night. "With this influx of resources I expect we will be able to restore the vast majority of the remaining outages on Monday. However, there will likely be some smaller outages that run into Tuesday."

The utility expects to have power restored throughout the county by 11:59 p.m. Tuesday.

The ice storm Saturday night and early Sunday downed trees, blocked roads and knocked out power at thousands of homes and businesses in Henderson County. Henderson County schools administrators announced a two-hour delay for the start of school on Monday, citing the widespread power outages and expected hazardous roads. "Due to power outages across the county, road debris, and the possibility of early morning black ice, Henderson County Public Schools will be operating on a 2-hour delay Monday," the school system said in a news release.

Henderson County was the hardest hit county in Western North Carolina, with more than a quarter of Duke Energy customers without power. The utility reported widespread power outages throughout the county, with the lights going out from 12:30 to around 5 a.m. Sunday. The county's 13,533 outages at 4:30 p.m. Sunday were the second most in the state, trailing only much larger Forsyth County, which had 32,951. Duke Energy did not yet have a projection for when power would be restored. By 8 o'clock Sunday night, the number of customers without power was down to 7,266.

Power outages climbed throughout the morning, reaching a high of 20,500 before dropping back down to 19,700 at 11:30 a.m.

In Transylvania County 2,685 customers were without power. Other outage totals were 5,725 in Buncombe County and 498 in Polk County.

"Roads are in pretty good shape right now," Henderson County Emergency Management Director Jimmy Brissie said. "Ice is beginning to melt. There's numerous trees down and power lines down which could create some concern with travel. DOT and Duke Power have all their forces out."

Although no injuries had been reported, firefighters countywide have been busy.

"Fire departments have answered 150 calls of trees and power lines down since midnight," Brissie said.

Gov. Roy Cooper declared a State of Emergency on Sunday aftrenoon to help utility workers restore power quickly in parts of western and central North Carolina. At 4 p.m. Sunday approximately 98,000 customers were without power — the majority of those in Forsyth, Henderson, Rockingham, Stokes, Guilford, Caswell, Yadkin, Wilkes, Transylvania, Buncombe and Surry counties. 

The State of Emergency is intended to facilitate movement of any resources needed to respond to the storm and ordered that truck weight, size and hours of service restrictions be waived. This allows vehicles carrying essential supplies and equipment and utility trucks working to restore power to get where they are needed quickly.

A winter storm warning remained in effect for Henderson County until 7 o'clock Sunday night. The National Weather Service called for a 40 percent chance of rain today, a low tonight of 32 and a high Monday of 38. Tuesday should be mostly sunny with a high near 43.Wednesday looks even better, with a high of 50 under sunny skies.