LUMBERTON — Power companies and emergency services were at the ready as Robeson County plunged into the second day of what Gov. Pat McCrory called “one of the toughest storms we’re going to see in our history.”
No power outages had been reported in Robeson County as of Wednesday afternoon, however projections of up to an inch of ice being dumped on the county by Thursday had residents wondering if they’ll be sitting in the dark instead of watching Duke University and North Carolina tangle in college basketball on the television.
According to Carl Morgan, a meteorologists with the National Weather Service in Wilmington, ice tends to pose a danger to power lines once about half an inch accumulates, either on the lines or on tree limbs.
“You may get to the point where some trees limbs can snap, especially pine trees,” he said.
So far, Robeson is coated in about one-tenth of an inch of ice from the winter storm has now earned the name Pax, and residents can expect another quarter inch to pileup today.
“The problem with this storm is we’re expecting a good bit of freezing rain,” said Tammie McGee, a Duke Energy spokesperson. “Freezing rain accumulates on tree limbs and lines and that’s the recipe that brings lines down.”
McGee said Duke Energy has brought in an extra 400 workers from out of state in case of widespread outages, including 250 standing by in Florence, S.C.
Lumbee River Electric Membership Corporation has been busy checking all of its equipment — and waiting by the phones.
“If this snow keeps coming down at the pace it’s coming down, this could be a real issue,” said Walter White, director of Marketing and Economic Development. White said power lines look OK so far and that the company has not received any calls regarding outages or downed lines or trees.
“From what I’m hearing forecast-wise, I really think that the way this evening goes is going to dictate a lot of how we come through this,” White said. “The bulk of the issues are probably still in front of us.”
Employees with the Lumberton Electric Utilities Department will be spending their second night in a row at the West Fifth Street office where trucks are parked.
“That will just give us a quicker response time if we have an emergency or a power outage, they don’t have to come from their homes,” City Manager Wayne Horne said. Horne said crews are busy plowing and roads around Southeastern Regional Medical Center are the priority.
Lamar Brayboy, director of Electric Utilities, said his office has only received a couple of calls from residents warning them of precarious branches.
Residents should stock up on non-perishable foods, fill prescriptions and make sure they have plenty of flashlights, candles and batteries on hand in the event of an extended outage.
White said he “can’t emphasize enough” that residents should stay away from any downed power lines and report them immediately. He also said they should stay off the roads if possible to cut down on traffic while crews rush off for repairs.
“In the event that we do have outages, we will be working as quickly as we can but while we’re being safe at the same time,” White said.
Pax is the second one-in-a-decade storm in Robeson County in two weeks. On Jan. 28, what would become known as Leon blanketed the county in snow, but did not cause any significant power outages.