ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:
For tens of thousands of tourists on North Carolina's Outer Banks, summer vacation is not going according to plan. They were forced to evacuate over the weekend after a construction crew accidentally cut the main power supply leading to Hatteras and Ocracoke islands. Governor Roy Cooper has declared a state of emergency as crews work to restore electricity. Reporter Jason deBruyn of member station WUNC has been on the islands today and joins us now. Tell us how this happened that a construction crew accidentally cut the power supply to these islands.
JASON DEBRUYN, BYLINE: Well, there's a pretty high-profile bridge project here to connect two of the islands on the Outer Banks. And while they were pile driving in one of the pylons, they just drove it down to the wrong spot, and it snapped the power line in two.
SHAPIRO: And as a result, tens of thousands of people have lost power. Tell us how the governor is responding to this. I understand he was at the construction site today.
DEBRUYN: He was there, yeah. And he's understandably not happy. You know, he's talking about holding the construction company at risk. And they've already admitted fault, so they're going to - you know, they're going to pay for a lot of the damages. But yeah, as you mentioned, I was out on Ocracoke Island today, and I was speaking to the governor. And here's what he had to say.
ROY COOPER: You've got waiters and waitresses who are losing tip money. You've got restaurants who aren't selling meals. You've got hotel owners who aren't selling rooms. You've got boat captains who don't have charters. It's a lot of money that is being lost on a daily basis. And that's why it's so important to get this done quickly.
SHAPIRO: Of course this is the height of the tourist season. So when you explore these islands, what's it like right now?
DEBRUYN: Well, it's a little bit weird. I was out on a little town called Rodanthe. And I actually went out on the beach. And there's nobody out there. There were two families that I could see for miles. Then I walked around town a little bit. I went into this little surf shop, and I met owner Jason Heilig. And then he was pretty blunt about how this was affecting him. And then here's what he said.
JASON HEILIG: Pretty hard to deal with because as opposed to in the past when we've had business interruptions, it's been due to most of the time hurricanes and storms that we could see coming. We couldn't see this storm coming.
SHAPIRO: So what's the plan to get electricity restored? And how long do people think it's going to take?
DEBRUYN: So two plans of action. The number one is obviously get the existing line repaired and get everything back to normal. Simultaneously, they're also working on sort of a temporary measure where there would be a power line that's run, you know, for just a short period of time. But you're still looking at at least a week and maybe as long as two weeks.
SHAPIRO: What would the scene typically be like on these islands this time of year?
DEBRUYN: Oh, people milling about, I mean, cars backed up for miles, blanket to blanket on the beach. I mean, it's really people everywhere - in the arcades, all over the place. And it's almost like a ghost town these days.
SHAPIRO: So if people don't mind going without power, they can at least get a beach to themselves.
DEBRUYN: (Laughter) Yeah. But visitors are not allowed. So the only people that are out there are the, you know, 2,000 or 3,000 people that actually live on the island.
SHAPIRO: That's reporter Jason deBruyn of member station WUNC. Thanks a lot.
DEBRUYN: Hey, thanks for having me.
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