08/16/09 — Vandals strike Tri-County power supply

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Vandals strike Tri-County power supply

By Steve Herring
Published in News on August 16, 2009 2:00 AM

Some 2,400 Rosewood households were left in the dark for the better part of Friday afternoon after vandalism caused a Tri-County EMC substation to automatically shut down.

It was the second time within the past year that the substation on Charlie Braswell Road has been the target of vandals who stole the copper wiring used to ground the entire substation.

The first time it happened, the vandals cut through a fence. An engineer working at the site noticed that the copper grounding was missing and shut the plant down before any damage could be done.

On Friday, the wet weather contributed to the problem, and the substation's safeguards automatically shut down the facility around noon.

The vandalism was reported to the Sheriff's Office, which also sent deputies to the substation for crowd control, said Bob Kornegay, manager of marketing and member services for Tri-County EMC.

Kornegay said that people were driving up to the substation trying to find out what was going on. He said the area was too dangerous for the public to enter.

"The person who did it knew enough not to get killed, but was crazy," Kornegay said.

He noted that 110,000 volts flow into the substation.

Kornegay said about $500 worth of copper was taken, but the cost to Tri-County EMC is much higher due to the damage that was caused before it shut down.

"Total amount of damages to Tri-County is hard to calculate because we spent thousands of dollars for the repairs, and of course we have loss of revenue for everyone that was out of power for six or seven hours," he said. "It's a substantial loss to Tri-County and a major inconvenience to our customers. It's a spiral effect when something like this happens."

Kornegay added that it's likely the person who stole the copper cut through the fence to gain access.

Tri-County EMC is headquartered in Dudley and serves 25,000 customers from Princeton to Beulaville and Faison to Kinston, most of whom are in Wayne, Duplin and Lenoir counties.

-- Staff Writer Laura Collins contributed to this report.