Thousands without power after car crashes into Duke substation

A car crashed into the first power pole outside a substation in McDowell County, knocking out power to thousands of residents. (Photo credit: Old Fort Police Dept.)

More than 3,000 people in McDowell County have a power outage Saturday morning due to an early-morning car crash into one of Duke Energy's substations.

Highway U.S. 70 is also closed in the Old Fort area due to the downed power lines and the outage.

The outage is centered around downtown Old Fort. Most homes and businesses near Main Street have no power.

A car hit the first power pole that carries all the main lines out of the substation around 1:30 Saturday morning. Those main lines serve most of the Old Fort area, according to Randy Wheeless, a representative with Duke Energy.

The driver, Ryan J. Viruet, is charged with careless and reckless driving, speeding, and not wearing a seat belt.

Old Fort Police Chief Melvin Lytle said Viruet was driving east on U.S. 70 when he fell asleep, sending his 2007 Nissan Sentra down a slope off a mid-grade curve.

The car rolled over before hitting the first power pole outside the substation.

The car was totaled, but there "must have been a higher power" with Viruet in the car, Lytle said, because he walked away with "one scratch on his head. "

The speed limit in that area of Old Fort is 30 mph. Lytle said Viruet told officers he was driving about 50 mph.

Crash investigation and accident reconstruction officers put Viruet's speed at 55 mph.

Duke Energy estimates the power should be restored by 2 p.m. Saturday afternoon.

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