Wednesday, September 10, 2008


In a comment about the electricity going on and off recently a reader asked about emergency generators on Ocracoke. Frankly, our power has been extremely reliable in recent years, unlike many times in the 1970s (and later) when we had frequent power surges, black outs, and brown outs.

With that said, we still have occasional power failures (from storms, hurricanes, waterspouts, accidents, etc.). Ocracoke is at the end of a long line of electric wires. Any disruption anywhere along that route, and our power goes out. Our electricity provider, Tideland Electric Cooperative, has a large generator here on the island for use during major and prolonged outages (I am reminded of the time that a barge struck the Oregon Inlet bridge and took out several hundred feet of the structure, along with the electric cable). But it is expensive to fire up the generator, so it is employed only rarely.

We have a small generator here at Village Craftsmen. It is not large enough to power our heating and air conditioning system, but it does allow us to keep lights on and run our calculators and credit card machines. A few other businesses (mainly restaurants and grocery stores) have more powerful generators to run their entire buildings, including freezers, coolers, and air conditioners.

Generally, the power is not off long enough to thaw out a home freezer (as long as the door is kept closed). However, power surges, rapidly fluctuating current, and brown outs can be very destructive to electric motors (fans and such), and to compressors (e.g. refrigerators and air conditioners). It helps to turn these off, or unplug them .

It is not often that we have want of a generator, but a number of people have them for emergencies. It is important to use a generator safely. One of the most dangerous practices is backfeeding from a home generator into the municipal power grid. I found this article that explains the dangers:

Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is the story of the wreck of the Victoria S, and Ocracoke's first automobile accident. You can read it here.


  1. Anonymous11:21 AM

    When did electricity arrive on the island?

  2. Electricity came to the island in 1938 with the installation of a generator in the building where Kitty Hawk Kites is located today. It was referred to as the ice plant (reflecting the importance of that commodity for the fishing industry), and local fishermen sometimes date events here as BI (Before Ice) & AI (After Ice).