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Since the beginning of COVID-19, Blue Ridge Energy made the decision to suspend disconnects, waive late fees and offer special payment plans to assist our members and customers during this difficult time. While the decision had already been made to extend these special circumstances until August, Gov. Cooper issued a new Executive Order 142 on May 30 outlining the same timeline. We encourage everyone (including Flexpay members) to continue paying your energy bill to avoid a large balance at the end of this crisis. Call us at 1-800-451-5474 to set up a special payment plan.
Blue Ridge and Visiting Linemen Responding to Outages Caused by Devastating Summer Storm
In the most devastating storm since 2009, over 100 linemen with Blue Ridge Electric Membership Corporation and other cooperatives cut their way through downed trees to reach broken power poles and spans of power line in a full force restoration effort for over 18,000 members at the height of the outage Friday night. More than 150 locations were damaged, including 50 broken power poles.
As of 3:30 pm Sunday, outages were down to 1,499 in Watauga County, which was the most heavily damaged area. A remaining 95 were being restored in Ashe County, where a car accident Sunday morning led to additional outages; while 36 remained in Avery County, 9 in Caldwell and one in Wilkes County. Alleghany County was restored early during the storm but a car accident Saturday took down power poles and lines, leading to additional outages.
“This was a highly unusual and unprecedented summer storm,” said Doug Johnson, chief executive officer of Blue Ridge Electric. “We heard reports of 80-mile-per hour winds and many trees taken down across our service area in a short amount of time Friday evening—many of which tore down our power lines and broke power poles,” said Johnson.
Another unusual factor was limited availability of assistance. “The storm affected most of the state and caused severe outage situations for other utilities, which led to having fewer additional resources available to us and to other utilities. We are very grateful to the visiting crews from French Broad, Rutherford, Jones Onslow, Central, Piedmont and Edgecombe Martin cooperatives who assisted our linemen and technical staff in getting power restored as quickly and safely as possible,” said Johnson.
Blue Ridge Electric is continuing its full force effort Sunday evening to restore power, but massive damage—much in remote, treacherous locations that are difficult to reach and repair—may cause a few outages remaining for restoration work on Monday.
Due to the extensive and widespread damage, Blue Ridge Electric officials say it’s difficult to give accurate, close estimated restoral times. If you or a loved one is dependent upon medical equipment or have other critical needs, the cooperative advises members to take precautions and plan for shelter or assistance for Sunday evening. Members in need of shelter for the night should call the Red Cross at 828-273-7604 or Watauga Emergency Management at 828-264-3761 ext.2. A shelter will only be opened if there is a public need. Members experiencing any medical concerns should call 911.
If you are the only household in your neighborhood without power, Blue Ridge Electric advises you to call the cooperative’s PowerLine at 1-800-448-2383 and report the outage even if you have already done so.
Members are also advised to stay far away from downed power lines as they can still be energized and dangerous, even deadly! Members are asked to report downed power lines and their location by calling any local Blue Ridge Electric district office to speak to a member services representative.
Outage updates and other helpful information is available on the cooperative’s social media sites at: www.facebook.com/blueridgeemc and www.twitter.com/blueridgeemc. For safety tips and other information including views of the cooperative’s social media pages, please visit the website at www.BlueRidgeEMC.com.
Blue Ridge Electric serves some 74,000 members in Caldwell, Watauga, Ashe, Alleghany, Wilkes, Avery and Alexander counties.