Monday, March 20, 2017


Late last month I published as one of our monthly Ocracoke Newsletters the story of the Electrification of Ocracoke Island. Unfortunately subsequent blog posts included an inaccurate link (it directed to our home page; not our Newsletter page).

This is the correct link:

If you were not able to locate this Newsletter earlier you might want to read it now. It traces the history of electric power on the island from the installation of the first generator (salvaged from a wrecked ship) in 1936, to the latest installation of Tesla batteries and solar panels.

The Newsletter explains how electricity (and the ability to make ice) impacted the island's fishing industry, how natural and man-made disasters (the powerful hurricane of 1944, and the 1990 accident that collapsed nearly 400 feet of the Oregon Inlet bridge) left authorities scrambling to provide power to our village, and how vulnerable the submarine cable under Hatteras Inlet has been.

Be sure to read how Conch O'Neal and his nephew Bobby O'Neal dealt with troublesome cable issues in the 1970s. And notice the new armored submarine cable that has been much more reliable.

Again, this is the correct link:

Look for a new Ocracoke Newsletter tomorrow. 


  1. Anonymous10:15 AM

    Case law is such an interesting thing to read. It seems so picky, the boat was in the water the Hobie cat was out of the water they were in navigatable waters they were not in navigatible waters, What are navigatible waters etc etc Admirality law dictates... the Supreme Court has ruled .... What an interesting chapter in OI Three people Electrocuted in the Habor and we are just now hearing of it! I have yet to find info on the $$$$settlement and if any memorial exists on the island dedicated to the memory of these young lives lost. Such a tragedy. I was looking into the 1990 reference to the collaspe of the bridge but did a google serach on the name of one of the sailors electroculed - wow -- everyone should do the same and share what they found. Now 400 feet of bridge lost -- what the heck happened?? DD

    1. The tragedy of the electrocution of the three young men shocked Ocracoke, and it was widely reported at the time.

      The bridge, of course, was repaired, although it took several months. During that time all automobile traffic from Ocracoke and Hatteras Islands used the Swan Quarter or Cedar Island ferries...or a temporary ferry from the north end of Hatteras to the mainland.

    2. Anonymous7:41 AM

      PH it is true it was reported widely at the time, but here we read of Blackbeard so often, the submarines, the cemetaries and ghosts, are the ghosts of these tragic figures memorialized it local folklore? An uninsulated metal mast, a low hanging high voltage wire, a wide range of culpability -- my question the follow up. What was the result ,the judgement --did the local electric company have responsibility, the guy that rented the boat to the victims --- it seems to me the old reports of the stranded shipwreck surviors and the LSS rescue of them begs the question was any aid rendered to the electrocution victims? Has any first reponders, eye witness accounts been documented was there a gag order? I find it curious that such an event that seems to have historic implications in the pleasure craft industry which happened on OI ; has it not been more of a cautionary tale on OI. Or is it too recent and painful to recall. Perhaps they were visitors to OI for the first time and the memory has faded .

    3. Of course, local first responders did everything they could. Our EMTs continue to play a vital role in our community. The closest hospital is about 2 1/2 hours away by ambulance.

      I remember hearing there was a settlement with the Electric Cooperative, but I don't remember the details. The victims were not island residents. However, I intentionally included their names to remind us all that they were real people with family and loved ones.

      As I mentioned in the article, the electric company quickly re-routed the power lines.

      It was a tragic accident, our community was greatly distressed, the issue was addressed, and I don't have anything more to say about it.

    4. Anonymous9:22 AM

      "The power company quickly rerouted the lines" and that action was a point in the case. All the local watermen were using outboard motors so there was no risk of a mast coming into contact with a low hanging power line . A moritorium of renting sailboats to visitors to avoid another accident was not considered just the power company removing evidence and tampering with the scene of an accident. I appreciate your unease with discussing this matter but from a stand point of a place inviting visitors to stay I hope in the future, the worst case senario test is considered . And yes thank you for mentioning the names of the victims and citing the events that led to the tragedy . The facts of the case and the testimony of some have caused this reader to press the issue out of curiosity and disbelief of such thoughtlessness of some involved.

    5. No one on Ocracoke was renting sailboats, and the power company was not "removing evidence and tampering with the scene of an accident." They were correcting a dangerous situation. This unfortunate incident happened 35 years ago. There is no reason to think such an accident will happen again.

  2. Anonymous8:49 AM

    I'm sorry but reports I read stated that the Hobie Cat sailboat was rented by the visitor. If this is false, then my concerns are unfounded. However, there was a great deal of back and forth regarding Admiralty Law and was the boat in the water or out of the water when it came in contact with the Uninsulated 7200 watt high voltage line. When the case went to court the Power line had been moved by then. So testimony relied on the recollections of locals. If the power line was so dangerous why was it there in the first place. Who allowed it to be there?? If no one on OI was renting sailboats are you suggesting this was a mainland vendor who set up shop on OI during the busy summer season? Once again I am puzzled by this fascinating set of truly tragic events/decisions made by all parties involved before after and during the aftermath of this loss of life. May these young men rest in Peace and be comforted by the fact someone cares. And now for the rest of the story. Page two.

    1. Again, this incident happened 35 years ago. I had no idea the sailboats were rented (I assumed the sailboats belonged to the young men), but since they sailed from across the Sound they must have been rented somewhere on the mainland. Of course, no one had considered the danger (we are talking about real, fallible human beings)...not until the tragedy occurred. It would have been irresponsible to leave the power lines where they were once the danger was recognized. There was no question about where the line was located.

  3. Anonymous8:38 AM

    I don't mean to beat a dead horse but an abstract / synopsis of the case on a Justica law web site went on about the dispute - was the power line over the water at the high tide mark was the boat out of the water when it came in contact with the high voltage line, some locals stated that it was completely over dry land -- oh man --they were going back and forth as to if the Admiralty rule applied then there was some mention of some other measure, and the Hobie cat people were sued and well for a student of law this is a fascinating case -- it was not a cut and dried set of facts. But much like the Flint water issue decisions were made to save costs What on Earth was the electric company thinking to install a high voltage wire OVER the Water in the 20th century. Fallible human beings( without education/ training??) these are people making decisions for a community --You think they would study and research the aspects of RISK Management when hanging power lines. What kind of permits were issued. is there not a process of thought involved now a days. This is why people need to attend the local commission meetings and see how who and why decisions are made. Be careful what you wish for when electing leaders.