WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — Duke Energy says more than 40% of New Hanover County is without power this evening because of falling icy tree limbs and power lines.
And while electrical crews are trying to get the lights and heat back on around town, we’ve learned from a source close to the situation that the Wilmington Police Department had no special plan in place today to handle power outages, trees blocking city streets or dark traffic lights. We’re told in fact that no officers got any special instructions or scheduling updates from Chief Ralph Evangelous or his management team on how to handle traffic or neighborhoods with no power. We’re also told officers are just trying to do the best they can in the precincts they’re in charge of.
We also heard nothing today (this afternoon) from City Manager Sterling Cheatham, Mayor Bill Saffo or City of Wilmington staff on how it plans to handle this storm, the clean-up afterwards or if there are any plans to issue a state of emergency. Both the mayor of Leland and the mayor of Belville issued one this afternoon. A state of emergency allows governments to suspend or change some rules during and immediately after a storm and in some cases starts the process of freeing up state money for repairs.
This evening, City Manager Cheatham, in a phone interview, told WWAY that they have been updating residents via various social media outlets all day and that their plans are well organized.
“Emergency response planning is a professional discipline, we practice this on a regular basis,” said City Manager Sterling Cheatham.
Cheatham continued, “And heavily rely on the county for coordinating activities like shelters, and things of that nature and making sure that the state is aware of what we’re doing and making sure we have the resources we need to respond. It’s up to us, individually, the city, in terms of keeping the streets, and rights of way, and trees groomed. And the NCDOT and others in terms of keeping the major thoroughfares free. We have to work together, and we have to work with the citizens to make sure they heed the direction we give them. And in this case the direction was to please stay off the roads.”
He added that they make sure the roads are clear so that power companies can get to the problem areas.
We also heard nothing today from New Hanover County Government or County Manager Chris Coudriet. The New Hanover County Sheriff’s Office did call us to encourage drivers to treat intersections without an operating traffic light as a four-way stop.
New Hanover County Emergency Management Tweeted today encouraging people not to be on the roads if they didn’t have to be.
Duke Energy says it could be this weekend before everyone gets their power turned back on.
After this story ran, the City of Wilmington sent the following email:
City offices will open at 10 a.m. tomorrow. If staff find that facilities still do not have power, that determination may change. The city annex at 305 Chestnut Street does not currently have power and staff do not know when it will be restored at that location.
Public Services and Community Services crews have been out all day clearing roadways of debris; many have been on duty since 4:30 a.m. Crews have cleared all major roads at this time and will have a crew on standby tonight if any major streets need to be cleared. They will be back on duty first thing tomorrow morning with extra crews to concentrate on clearing additional roadways. Storm debris will be left by the roadside until later when solid waste crews can pick it up. Similarly, Solid Waste crews will not begin to pick up yard waste until next week so that customers have the opportunity to clean up this weekend.
Citizens are asked not to call 911 to report downed trees, power lines or flooding. Here are the numbers to call:
◾Call 341-7852 and leave a message to report trees or tree limbs blocking roadways within city limits.
◾Call 341-4646 and leave a message to report flooding or other stormwater issues within city limits.