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Thousands still without power from North Carolina storm

North and South Carolina continue to feel the wrath of the winter.
North and South Carolina continue to feel the wrath of the winter.

Many Americans may be fed up with this winter's weather, but those who are the least familiar with it are suffering the most. In North Carolina, last Friday's ice storm caused more than 450,000 residents to be out of power, while driving conditions were nearly impossible because soft soil made it easy for many trees to topple over.

Two of the state's biggest utility companies have done their part to maintain business continuity, but working in freezing rain, sleet and snow can be dangerous to staff members, the Associated Press reported. Business and homeowners in Asheboro, Burlington and Greensboro experienced the worst of it — many students who were supposed to attend make-up classes on Saturday were told not to come.

Fallen trees was largely the cause of these disruptions, which also forced the state to suspend Amtrak service on the Carolinian and Piedmont lines, while High experienced significant delays. Governor Pat McCrory signed an order declaring a State of Emergency on Friday, hoping that the state will receive relief from this weather system, according to a local ABC affiliate.

"While we have become very experienced in winter storm response during the past two months, each storm is different and can require different resources," McCrory told the source. "[Friday] we're seeing more power outages than we had during any of the previous storms this year, and we need to do all that we can as quickly as we can to help those in need."

It has been three days since the storm caused a mixture of precipitation across the Tar Heel State, but Duke Energy announced that power may not be restored for about 81,000 households until Wednesday. Its press release explained that this issue will largely affect Alamance and Guilford counties.

"Our crews are working as quickly and safely as possible to get the lights on for customers and will not stop until the last customer is restored. Improved weather conditions today will help," Jeff Corbett, senior vice president of Duke Energy's Carolinas Delivery Operations.

Overall, both Carolina states are facing extreme difficulty getting their operations back in order. Duke Energy's update comes days after South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley declared a state of emergency. Last month's Winter Storm Pax is estimated to have cost the state about $55 million in damages, the Morning News noted.

South Carolina's winter weather woes

Governor Haley hopes that, with the emergency declaration that FEMA will be able to provide funding to help 21 counties get back on their feet — South Carolina has about 46 counties altogether. If this all goes well, the state government and local businesses may get reimbursed for 75 percent of their disaster recovery costs.

"The state of South Carolina and its local counties and municipalities require the assistance of the federal government to recover, to continue day-to-day operations, and to maintain our ability to respond to future emergencies," Haley wrote in her letter to President Barack Obama.

It is unknown if President Obama will allow FEMA to provide services to either state, but these are examples of why it is pertinent to have a continuity of operations plan in place. Communities that may not have experience with specific weather conditions can find themselves in compromising positions if preparatory actions are not taken far in advance.

To alleviate these ongoing problems, business continuity consultants can develop strategies that will lessen the magnitude of these problems.