Tree takes out power at Carowinds; fans wait hours

Tree fell on electric lines nearby after heavy rainfall

rsouthmayd@heraldonline.comJuly 5, 2013 

— What could have been a day riding roller coasters turned into several hours of sitting in parking lots and twiddling thumbs after a power outage left the Carowinds amusement park in the dark for more than five hours.

Around 9:15 a.m. Friday, Carowinds announced that power was out in the park that straddles the South Carolina/North Carolina state line. A short time later, the park announced that the blackout was caused by a tree that fell on top of electrical wires during heavy rain after 8 a.m.

Justin Landon, a spokesman for Duke Energy, said 64 customers were without power, including Carowinds.

“A tree fell on primary lines, and where there’s primary lines, they actually come from the substation,” he said.

The tree didn’t need to crack or break to fall on the lines. The ground was so saturated from days of rain, it tipped over, roots and all.

Landon said the repair took a typical amount of time given the size of the tree and the amount of work that went into getting the power lines back up and re-energized.

It was after 2 p.m. when the power was finally restored and an additional hour before guests were allowed into the park, five hours after the scheduled opening.

“It can be one of our busier weeks (of the year),” said spokeswoman Julie Whitted.

Some Carowinds guests decided to wait it out.

The Seaton family had left their home in Summerville around 8 a.m. They waited out the blackout in the Plaza Fiesta parking lot, sitting in the back of their pickup truck.

Calvin Holloway and his family drove down from Winston-Salem, N.C., and pulled over on the side of the road outside the Carowinds entrance. They had a picnic while they waited.

“We do seem to have dedicated guests and fans who waited it out for us and we appreciate their patience,” Whitted said. “And the good thing is they have shorter lines to deal with.”

The late opening was welcome news to some. Several nearby businesses saw an uptick in customers, like the Wendy’s restaurant on Carowinds Boulevard, which never lost power.

Kim Curls, the general manager at the Wendy’s, said Fridays are usually active, but this one was even busier.

“Nobody knows what to do, so they wandered over here to eat,” she said, including plenty of Carowinds employees who also weren’t able to enter the park.

At Plaza Fiesta, right next to the Carowinds gate, the day was busy, property manager Louretta Wall said. But because it was a Friday and a holiday, she had expected the plaza to be more active than normal.

Wall said additional traffic control was needed in the mall’s crowded parking lot, but it was manageable. Plaza Fiesta never lost power.

“It didn’t affect us except to give us a little more business and give people something to do,” she said.

On its website, Carowinds announced that anyone who entered the park once it opened just after 3 p.m. would be admitted at the “Twilight” price of $29.99. The park also said it would remain open an additional hour, closing at 11 p.m., instead of 10.

Any tickets purchased for Friday will be honored on any other date in July, with the exception of Sunday, because the park is closed that day.

Rachel Southmayd •  803-329-4072

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