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Winter storm knocks out power across WNC

Bryan Miler/Courtesy of BPR News
High elevations saw the most snow. Pictured is the road up to Highlands in Macon County.

Update January 5 at 10 am: Wednesday morning power was almost completly restored across the Western North Carolina mountians. Five residents in Henderson, Buncombe, Haywood, Graham and Polk Counties respectively are still in the dark, according to Duke Energy.

There is potential for another snow storm on Thursday night to Friday morning in the region, according to The Weather Channel.

Published January 4 at 6 pm: Thousands of people in Western North Carolina woke up without power on the first Monday of the new year after a storm of heavy rain, wind and snow.  

High elevations saw as much as 6 inches of snow and the Blue Ridge Parkway was closed ahead of the storm.

The number of those without power dropped significantly to just over 1,000 by Tuesday morning, according to Duke Energy.

At that time in Graham County, there were about 500 people still without power, according Graham County Emergency Services and Emergency Management director Phillip Boyle. 

“We’re expecting the power to be back by the end of tonight. The situation is very fluid and dynamic as in there could be multiple other things that happen throughout the day – we just don’t know. But our hope is to have the power up again by the end of tonight,” said Boyle. Right after storm, 3,000 people in the county were without power.

Those who need temporary shelter in Graham County can call the communications center at (828) 479-3706.

Boyle says that Duke Energy has been on the ground working to fix downed lines caused by fallen trees. Winds as high as 50 miles per hour, snow and recent heavy rains all contributed to the storm.

“It all came together in a perfect storm and perfect set-up for multiple trees to come down,” said Boyle.

Local law enforcement, EMS, NC Forest Service and other local agencies have all been on the ground helping folks.

“We did have an immense outpouring from the community of folks getting out there on their own, where they were removing some of the trees that were out there,” said Boyle.

As winter continues, Boyle recommends having a storm plan and putting together a kit to be self-sufficient during power outages. This includes nonperishable food, water and items to stay warm.

“Now Graham County is absolutely amazing at taking care of themselves but if we do have something major it can take on average a bit to get to people. So we recommend that people have at least 24 hours of supplies,” said Boyle.  

By 6 p.m. on Tuesday, there are still about 260 people without power in the region, according to Duke Energy. Of those, 185 people are without power in Henderson County and 77 are in Graham County.

Lilly Knoepp is Senior Regional Reporter for Blue Ridge Public Radio. She has served as BPR’s first fulltime reporter covering Western North Carolina since 2018. She is from Franklin, NC. She returns to WNC after serving as the assistant editor of Women@Forbes and digital producer of the Forbes podcast network. She holds a master’s degree in international journalism from the City University of New York and earned a double major from UNC-Chapel Hill in religious studies and political science.