TWC Crews Work Around Clock In Storm-Hit N.C.

Time Warner Cable Carolinas has posted dramatic photos of tornado-damaged communities in Eastern North Carolina, where employees have worked around the clock to restore service lost since Saturday's storms.

The cable operator has more than 2.1 million customers in the Carolinas and more than 800,000 customers in the Raleigh, Fayetteville and Wilmington, N.C., areas most affected by Saturday's storms.

See an interview with a construction coordinator Don Griesedieck in the field at this TWC link. See photos from the storm area at this TWC link.

Chris Whitaker, area VP of operations in Eastern Carolina, toured affected areas and said she'd never seen anything like it -- pockets of homes and communities that were completely destroyed, houses sitting off foundations, some with the roofs blown off.

Gov. Bev Perdue said Wednesday the dozens of tornadoes on April 16 had led directly to 24 deaths. Some 133 suffered serious injuries, 400 homes were destroyed and 6,300 homes were significantly damaged, the governor said in a news conference (covered by TWC's local News 14 Carolina channel) that also addressed federal disaster aid and other local assistance.

Whitaker said several TWC employees were affected by the storm but fortunately there were no fatalities in the work force. Four TWC employees "lost everything" in the storm, she said, including one family with a young child that had to flee their mobile home.

On Saturday, electric utility Progress Energy reported that 175,000 homes were without power. As of Wednesday afternoon, that number was down to fewer than 3,000 customers, including some homes that were completely destroyed, Whitaker said. TWC crews work closely with the electric utility, coming in when power is restored to get video, Internet and phone service back on. Melissa Buscher, communications VP for TWC Carolinas, said an estimated 250 workers (full-timers and contractors) are currently focused solely on restoration efforts.

Time Warner Cable on Monday made a $25,000 donation to the Red Cross, she said, and employees have made other volunteer efforts, including working phone banks Wednesday at WRAL-TV collecting donations for the Red Cross and other agencies.

"Our employees rally to the cause" and want to help others in their community, Whitaker said.

Working with the Red Cross, TWC also has provided mobile hot spots that can act as a wireless Internet hub connecting several devices. Some have been put in place in local hotels where displaced TWC customers are staying, and can be used in a car as well.

The cable system broadcast emergency alert signals from the the National Weather Service and local radio stations. They started coming in just after noon on Saturday in the western part of the Raleigh, N.C., service area, she said.

News 14 Carolina (a TWC-exclusive channel) provided continuous coverage on the weather event from the initial threats right through the entire storm and is still covering the aftermath.

"One tornado touched down right down the block from our newsroom and we remained on-air covering the storm," Whitaker said.