July 29 (UPI) -- Thousands of tourists on two of North Carolina's barrier islands had their vacations abruptly cut short after the state's governor order them evacuated because a construction crew accidentally cut off electricity.
Gov. Roy Cooper ordered Hatteras and Ocracoke islands evacuated Friday night after a crew repairing a bridge in the area damaged the electrical lines powering both islands. Cooper's office said the lack of electricity to power air conditioners and refrigerate food posed a public health risk and power may not be restored "for weeks."
The company responsible for the damage, PLC Construction, said it had engineers evaluating the severity of the damage and said no timetable had been established for how long it would take to complete repairs.
"Once they get here and put eyes on it, then we'll have a really better sense of what we're looking at in terms of repair time," a spokeswoman for Cape Hatteras Electric Cooperative told WRAL-TV.
The evacuation order comes at the height of the North Carolina Outer Banks tourist season, when thousands flock to the Atlantic Coast islands' sandy beaches.
"It's going to be huge," Donnie Shumate, spokesman for Hyde County, where Ocracoke Island is located, told USA Today. "The island was at capacity when all this went down and this is usually the busiest time of the year for the island. It will be a major hit economically depending on how long it lasts."
There are a combined 9,000 homes located on the two islands, many of which are tourist rentals.