Outer Banks: Power could be out for up to two weeks

Thousands of tourists on North Carolina's Ocracoke Island had to evacuate due to a major power outage. Tideland Electric Membership Corporation was bringing in and installing three mobile generators to supply essential power for those who live and work year round.

(CNN) -- It could take one to two weeks to restore power to the lower portion of North Carolina's tourist-dependent Outer Banks, a utility said.

Coming at the peak of summer vacation season, the massive power outage will have an ongoing impact on oceanfront destinations and vacation rentals.

Residents have been in the dark since Thursday morning, when a crew working for PCL Construction, the company building the new Herbert C. Bonner Bridge at Oregon Inlet, accidentally drove a steel casing into an underground transmission line, causing blackouts on Ocracoke and Hatteras islands.

The small bit of good news is that only two of the three underground cables were damaged, the Cape Hatteras Electric Cooperative said in a statement Monday. Crews are working around the clock focusing on two solutions, the cooperative said.

The first is to excavate down to the damaged cables and then splice them. The second solution is to build a new overhead transmission line. Both options will be actively pursued until it's clear which is the fastest and the safest, officials said.

Cars lined up over the weekend to get on ferries after all tourists were ordered off the popular East Coast tourist destination. Thousands were evacuated by late Sunday.

Dare County public information officer Dorothy Hester said that about 50,000 to 60,000 people had been in the beach areas -- both residents and visitors.

Dare County Emergency Services maintained that the "mandatory evacuation remains in place," and had not set a date by which tourists could begin returning to the island.

Officials said CHEC would supply temporary power through a Buxton diesel generator and portable generators until the transmission repairs are complete.

A voicemail recording at Ocracoke's Anchorage Inn told callers, "all reservations will be canceled until the evacuation is lifted."

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