Guilford County’s operations at its large Maple Street building – where the Department of Health and Human Services is located – is critical to Guilford County government.

It’s usually packed with people who are seeking food and nutrition benefits or are there for health screenings or for other county services.

On Monday June 6, those operations had to come to a screeching halt because of a bad automobile accident that took out the power.

It’s bad enough when a home losses power, but it’s a major event when a central nerve system of county government is taken out.

According to Guilford County Communications and Public Relations Director Julie Smith, the accident closed down the building at about 2:30 p.m. for about two and a half hours.  She said it was her understanding that a vehicle had taken town power poles and she was correct about that.

Jeff Brooks, a spokesperson for Duke Energy provided a detailed explanation.

“Yesterday’s accident was the result of a vehicle taking down multiple utility poles along North Church Street,” he stated in an email.  “The accident brought down three poles, power lines and other equipment, all of which had to be replaced and the damaged equipment removed. The outage affected around 3,500 customers in the area throughout the afternoon. We were able to restore nearly 3,000 of those customers by early evening and the remainder were restored by shortly after midnight. Cars and trucks hitting utility poles is an ongoing challenge for utilities as it is impossible to know where or when an accident will occur.”

Brooks added that Duke Energy is working to combat these challenges by making power grid improvements locally as well as across the state. Those improvement projects include pole and line upgrades as well as the installation of “smart, self-healing technology.”  That is, technology that can automatically detect an outage and very quickly reroute the power flow to restore service faster.

“Self-healing technology can reduce the impacts of an outage by as much as 75 percent and can often restore power to customers in less than a minute,” Brooks noted.

He added, “We are deploying this technology now, which helped avoid nearly 35,000 customer outages in Guilford and Forsyth Counties in 2022, saving customers nearly 200,000 hours of total outage time. We hope to serve around 80 percent of customers with this smart technology over the next few years.”

DSS and Public Health operations were back up and running on Tuesday, June 7, but it is unfortunate that the outage happened at Maple Street because many clients who use the services there don’t have good access to transportation.