(Reuters) - Two North Carolina counties on Thursday lifted evacuation orders as of noon on Friday, allowing tens of thousands of people back to the Outer Banks a week after a power outage forced the emergency measures at the height of the summer vacation season.
About 50,000 visitors had been ordered off the islands of Hatteras and Ocracoke in Dare and Hyde counties, respectively, creating hardship for businesses that depend on summer beach visitors.
Power was fully restored to both islands, the Cape Hatteras Electric Cooperative said on Thursday, after a construction accident cut underground transmission lines on July 27.
"Power has been restored and Cape Hatteras Electric Cooperative (CHEC) has assured local officials that reliable and adequate power is available to enable the return of visitors on Friday afternoon," Dare County said in a statement.
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A spokesman for Hyde County said its order would also be lifted on Friday.
About 5,000 residents remained on Hatteras Island and about 900 residents remained on Ocracoke Island despite the evacuation orders, officials said.
Tourism generates about $1 billion annually in Dare County, and about a quarter to 28 percent of that comes from Hatteras Island where tourists were temporarily prohibited, a county spokeswoman said.
During a news conference on Monday, North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper said he would attempt to help recover funds for those who sustained losses. Cooper declared a state of emergency for Hatteras and Ocracoke last week.
Other areas of the Outer Banks remained open, including cities such as Kitty Hawk and Nags Head north of the bridge where the power cables were severed.
(Reporting by Daniel Trotta; Editing by James Dalgleish)