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Duke Energy responds to criticism from flood victims

Flood victims said the water came quickly, with many of them not having much time to get out. Now, Duke Energy is defending its process of opening area dams.

STANLEY, N.C. — After historic flooding impacted dozens of families, many flood victims questioned Duke Energy and the process they took in moving water through the Catawba River Basin. 

"We weren't warned at all," said one woman who lives near Lake Drive along Mountain Island Lake. She didn't want to be identified, but expressed concern about how Duke Energy communicated with victims downstream. 

She wasn't alone. 

Michael Brissie, the company's hydro-area manager, said they received complaints. 

"So we've gotten that feedback from several different sources," he said. "No doubt about it."

Brissie said workers with Duke Energy, including himself, kept a close eye on the forecast and did what they could ahead of time. However, the storm came too quick for them, too. 

"Before the rain comes, we begin to lower the lake reservoirs by moving additional water through the generating units," he explained. "Which we did in this case." 

He said the rain fell at an unprecedented pace in a short amount of time, giving Duke Energy no other option but to open the flood-gates at certain dams. 

"It's definitely a difficult situation for Duke to make that decision," he said. "This was an uncommon amount of rainfall."

"We try to hold as much water here at Lake Norman to minimize downstream impact, and so that's why once the rain started coming into Lake Norman, we waited to open the flood gates as long as we could to hold as much water here in this reservoir as opposed to releasing it downstream," he added. 

As for the complaints on the lack of communication between Duke Energy and people in the water's path, Brissie said they followed policy of constant communication with first responders. 

"To deal with six, eight, 12 inches that falls within a 12 hour period like we saw in the upper Catawba, it brought levels of flows beyond our normal operating experience. And so, it was challenging," he said. 

Brissie said they updated the company's website banner, but they rely on first responders to distribute any warnings or evacuation. 

Back in the neighborhoods that are now underwater, some are understanding while others don't know what to think. 

"I can't say what Duke could or couldn't have done," said resident Dan Holland whose home was spared. "I just know it shocked us all. It was very sudden."

Brissie noted no single neighborhood was sacrificed for others. 

"Ultimately, our concern is the integrity of the dams, so that we don't have a more catastrophic event of a dam failure," said Brissie.


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