RALEIGH, N.C. (WVEC/AP) - North Carolina transportation officials say workers were setting aside equipment that wasn't in use when they caused a massive power outage that drove tourists from two islands in the Outer Banks.
Transportation department spokesman Tim Hass says construction workers stuck the steel casing in the ground in a spot where they intended to leave it temporarily. Hass says the long metal tube is used to drive pilings that support the bridge.
PHOTOS: Power outages on the Outer Banks
Crews from PCL Construction building a new bridge between islands severed the underground lines last week. A PCL spokeswoman didn't immediately respond to a message seeking comment Wednesday morning.
Lawsuits have been filed against the company by businesses who say they were hurt when thousands of tourists evacuated.
In a statement to 13News Now, PCL spokesperson Stephanie McCay said, "It is the policy of PCL to not comment on matters of prospective litigation. We respect and defer to the adjudicative process, and will submit our positions when called upon in the appropriate forum."
In a new update on Wednesday morning, utility officials revised their estimate to restoring power in three to five days, which includes the time required for testing after all construction is complete and before transmission service can begin.
Furthermore, a mandatory water restriction for Hatteras Island was lifted on Wednesday.
Cape Hatteras Electric Cooperative issued the following progress on restoring the power cables:
Overhead Solution: Constructing a new overhead transmission line from its underground point at the south end of the Bonner Bridge to the point where it meets the cooperative’s existing overhead transmission line is the most expedient way to restore transmission service to the islands. CHEC reached this determination in consultation with specialty contract crews including Lee Electrical Construction, an organization that specializes in high-voltage transmission line construction, and New River Electrical, which specializes in the highly complex processes of splicing and transitioning lines from underground to overhead.
Overhead Progress: Crews began installing the three-phase line last night. Concurrently, the specialist team from New River Electrical is executing prep work for creating the transition from underground to overhead just before the site of the damage and creating connections to the existing overhead lines that run the length of Hatteras Island.
Underground Situation: Despite PCL Construction’s tireless excavation efforts and attempts to dewater the trench at the site of the damage, trench conditions proved to be too challenging for the underground solution to be viable. PCL Construction was able to reveal all three cables, but water continued to seep into the trench making the environment unsuitable for repairs.