LUMBERTON — Thousands of homes and businesses with Duke Energy Progress are still without power, and the company says turning all the lights back on in Robeson County could take at least 24 more hours.
Lumbee River Electric Membership Corporation, which saw 1,500 outages at the height of winter storm Pax’s downpour of snow and ice on Robeson County, has restored power to all of its electric customers.
As of 9:30 a.m. today., 6,235 Duke Energy Progress customers in Robeson were still in the dark — the third most outages by county in the state behind New Hanover and Columbus.
At heighest count, about 8,200 Robeson County Duke Energy Progress customers were experiencing outages. Across the state, about 90,000 customers don’t have power, while about 672,000 have had power restored.
In a statement released by Duke Energy Thursday night, the company estimated all power would be restored in Robeson County by Saturday at 11:45 p.m.
“Many customers will have service sooner than the estimated times. There also may be scattered outages remaining beyond these times depending on individual cases,” the statement said.
Counties where critical lines powering large numbers of customers or essential services — like hospitals — are lacking power, are the priority, the statement said. Nearly 4,000 crew-members are working to restore power across the state.
Christine Pulley, a Duke Energy spokesperson, said the number of outages has been fluctuating throughout the storm.
“Not everyone is on the same circuit or line … so what happens is when they’re restoring power to one house, power in another house may temporarily go out,” Pulley said.
One Duke Energy customer, James Blount, said Thursday night he had been without power off and on since Tuesday afternoon, though it’s not the first time his neighborhood has been unexpectedly plunged into darkness.
“This is something that happens out in this area no matter if there’s heavy rain or a storm, we’re one of the first to go out,” said Blount, who lives on Quail Run Road in Lumberton near the fairgrounds.
Blount said his neighborhood was in the dark, but a Marathon station a quarter-mile away was brightly lit.
“They’re a good company because of the rates … but we would like to know why this area is always losing power and why it takes so long to get them back on out here,” Blount said.
Walter White, a spokesperson for Lumbee River Electric Membership Corporation, said slushy roads were a challenge for utility roads throughout the storm.
“Generally, the ice buildup itself is always a big challenge,” he said. “… For the most part I think people pretty much stayed off the roads, that makes it a lot easier for us to get through traffic.”
White said crews were able to make more progress overnight than anticipated because of improving driving conditions. The company had originally estimated power would be restored countywide by 5 p.m. today.
“For the most part, we’re in the clear. You never really know about limbs that were weakened, but I think we’re in really good shape now.”
Most of LREMC’s outages were concentrated in the southeastern part of the county.
“That’s the area where we received the most freezing rain,” White said, noting that’s what crews expected.
About 100 Lumberton electric customers lost power at different times throughout the night, but their power was restored Thursday, according to Director Lamar Brayboy.
Red Springs’ utility customers had no issues, according to Mayor John McNeill.