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By Sonny Jones

Duke Energy said Sunday night that it avoided rolling blackouts Christmas day, but asks customers to conserve energy use until 10 a.m. Monday to help avoid another set of rotating outages.

The request came as extremely low temperatures and high energy demand continued to place an unusual strain on the energy grid, the company said. Duke Energy is asking customers to consider powering down all nonessential electric devices and delay unnecessary energy use until mid-morning Monday.

Temperatures in Bladen County were expected to be as low as 18 degrees overnight Sunday, according to the National Weather Service, with a high Monday near 45. It is expected to warm up a bit Tuesday with a high in the upper 40s and the low in the mid 20s.

“Extremely cold temperatures combined with increasing customer demand has strained the electric grid across the country,” said Jason Hollifield, Carolinas Storm Director. “We are grateful for our customers who saved energy (Sunday) morning and we are asking them to conserve energy again (Sunday night) through (Monday) morning.”

As businesses open on Monday morning and people begin returning to the workplace during this time of sustained frigid temperatures, the company projects an increase in customer demand that could require rotating outages again on Monday.

“Our Duke Energy crews have been laser-focused on restoring power to our customers,” said Hollifield. “We’ll be ready to respond to whatever the weather brings (Monday) morning. But we are optimistic that with the ongoing energy conservation of our customers, we can avoid having rotating outages again.”

Duke Energy customers in Bladen County were left in the cold Christmas eve morning as the utility interrupted service as part of a plan to deal with higher demand and tighter electricity supplies brought on by extremely cold temperatures.

The company cut power to most of Bladen County around 7 a.m. Saturday. In a news release, Duke Energy said it expected “load shedding” to continue until at least 8:30 to 9 a.m. and be in 15 to 30 minute blocks although that timing could vary. However, many customers in Bladen County were without power until early Saturday afternoon.

Some basic energy conservation steps customers can take:

• Select the lowest comfortable thermostat setting and bump it down several degrees whenever possible.

• Avoid using large appliances – this means appliances with a three-pronged plug, such as dishwashers, ovens and dryers – during high-demand periods like early winter mornings.

• Shift non-essential activities, like laundry, to late evening hours when power demand is lower.

• Charge electric vehicles overnight.

• If you have an electric water heater, limit the use of hot water as much as possible.

• If your power is off, turn off appliances and other electrical devices that may have been on when the power went out, so there’s not an immediate surge on the system when power is restored.