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More than 3,000 Ashe residents remain without power Friday afternoon

Jesse Campbell/AMT
In Ashe County, North Carolina Department of Transportation road clearance crews have
worked steadily over the past 24 hours clearing heavy, wet snow that blanketed the high
country during the evening hours of Jan. 17. At one point, more than 9,000 high country
residents were without power, but BREMCO linemen have restored electric service for all but
3,000 as of 1 p.m. Friday, Jan. 18.

Originally published: Jan. 18, 2013
Last modified: Jan. 18, 2013

Adam Orr

Staff writer Jesse Campbell contributed to this report 

Shortly after 1 p.m. Friday afternoon, Blue Ridge Electric Membership Cooperative continues to work to restore power to more than 3,000 Ashe County residents left in the dark after a snowstorm covered some parts of the high country with nearly nine inches of snow. 

"Days of heavy rain coupled with a heavy wet snow and high winds overnight in the mountains brought down large trees across the High Country, damaging the electric system and hampering access," said BREMCO Director of Public Relations Renee Whitener. 

The winter blast also caused headaches for county emergency officials, according to Ashe County Communications Dispatcher Penny Miller, who said more than 140 weather related calls were received after noon on Jan. 17. Miller said calls for service included reports of downed trees and powerlines, debris in the roadway, car accidents and welfare checks for elderly citizens without electricity or heat. 

According to BREMCO's Outage Map (available at more than 3,000 Ashe County residents remain without power, or 15 percent of BREMCO customers, with smaller numbers of outages reported in Alleghany, Watauga, Wilkes and Avery Counties. 

"Linemen are using chainsaws and right-of-way crews to get to outage locations as quickly as possible," according to Whitener, who said more than 200 different locations across the county have reported power outages caused by heavy, wet snow pulling down power lines or trees falling onto electric facilities. 

Though outages have been reported countywide, Piney Creek, Big and Little Laurel Roads, Old NC 16, and Silas Creek have reported the most damage, according to Whitener. 

"Members are advised to take precautions for safety and warmth as full outage restoration in Ashe County may not be complete until Saturday due to extensive damage," said Whitener, who said more than 9,000 were without power at the height of the storm Thursday night. "If members are experiencing outages and have not reported them, please call the cooperative's Power Line at 1-800-448-2383."

If storm damage causes a meter base to be torn away from a house, the homeowner should first call an electrician, according to Whitener. 

"This is because the electric connection from a home to reach a meter base is part of that home and therefore is an individual homeowner's responsibility," said Whitener. "If this area is damaged, it must first be repaired by the homeowner in order for utility workers to make full power restoration to the home. This is also a safety issue." 

Electric cooperatives across the state have pitched in to help the high country restore power, including seventy-five additional linemen from Union Power, Rutherford Electric, Randolph Electric and York Electric Cooperatives, while Sumter and Carter right-of-way contract crews are also assisting, according to Whitener. 

For more information and stories, see Ashe Mountain Times.