By Jesse Wood
Editor’s Note: The number of outages has drastically dropped since this article was originally published. The number of outages reported by Blue Ridge Electrical Membership Corporation at 11:20 a.m. on Monday morning is about 50. Linemen with BREMCO have been working around the clock to restore power in local homes and businesses.
July 2, 2012. Though last night’s menacing thunderstorm moving southeast provided a brief relief from the record heat wave, hundreds of High Country residents were left without power in the wee hours of Monday morning and at least 200 still don’t have power.
As of 10 a.m. on Monday, Blue Ridge Electric Membership Corporation (BREMCO) has five crews working on power outages in Watauga County and three crews in Ashe County.
This morning BREMCO posted this statement on Facebook: “Linemen are working to restore final outages after beginning work at midnight to repair about 50 different power line locations damaged by the storm. 500 members were affected.”
At 10 a.m., BREMCO outages in the High Country numbered at around 200. Of those members affected, 164 reside in Watauga County and 28 reside in Ashe County. Outages with New River Light and Power (NRLP) are unknown, as a representative with NRLP didn’t return phone calls to High Country Press this morning.
This storm is similar, although less severe, to the storms in the Washington, D.C. area that affected more than a million people with power outages. A home was reportedly set afire from lightning in Fleetwood in Ashe County – the most damage yet to be reported.
Captain Mike Teague with Boone Fire Department said his district received no storm-related calls during the middle of the night. Kent Graham, emergency services director with Blowing Rock, said the thunderstorms “bounced all around us,” but that his staff didn’t receive any weather-related calls.
According to posts from area residents on Watauga County Road Conditions and Weather’s Facebook page, a power line was down near Cove Creek Baptist Church, in Foscoe and Vilas. Residents reported numerous trees down in the High Country.
One resident driving on N.C. 194 in between Banner Elk and Foscoe wrote: “Bad lightning, strong winds, rain, and hail on hwy 194 north pretty dang scary.”
According to Ray’s Weather, the recent heat wave fueled Sunday night’s/Monday morning’s thunderstorms.
“Significant heat (combined with higher humidity values) greatly increases the instability in the atmosphere,” Eric Anderson with Ray’s Weather said in an email. “Thus, the atmosphere becomes primed for thunderstorms once a “trigger” is introduced (i.e. some mechanism to lift the air to produce cumulonimbus clouds).”
Anderson added: “Scattered thunderstorms will be with us all week, mostly during the afternoon, but possible even at night. Temperatures will stay warmer than normal, but just below record territory for the rest of the week, so the worst of this heat wave is now behind us.”
To report outages with New River Light and Power, call 828-264-8621, and to report outages with Blue Ridge Electric Membership Corporation, call 800-448-2383. BREMCO has an outage tracking map at http://bremco.maps.sienatech.com/.