Parts of Williamsburg County are likely to be without power through the coming weekend, as line restoration crews for Santee Electric Cooperative take on acres of swamp and miles of line in a sparsely populated area of South Carolina.
“This is the electric cooperative that is experiencing the most stubborn outages at this point,” Electric Cooperatives of South Carolina spokesman Mark Quinn said.
He spoke to South Carolina Radio Network from Kingstree Tuesday and said the prolonged outages in that area of Georgetown, Williamsburg, Clarendon and Florence were not a surprise.
“This is by far the largest geographical service territory, not only in South Carolina, but in the eastern U.S. for all cooperatives,” he said. “The terrain is not your friend, the miles of exposed line makes it pretty tough. When you flip a switch we may turn on only two or three households.”
About 500 utility workers were dispatched Tuesday, the maximum capacity for crews to work efficiently, according to Quinn. Most of the workers live the same area, with outages in their own homes. That adds to their determination, he said.
Quinn told of one crew member whose kneecap was broken when a passing car sideswiped him. He was back repairing lines the next day.
Quinn agreed with the Gov. Nikki Haley’s assessment that the utility damage matches that of Hurricane Hugo in 1989. The cooperative reports more than 220 utility poles broken by the weight of ice in last week’s storm, twice as much as in Hugo.
So it’s been slow-going in some of the most rural, isolated area in the state.
“There’s a reason that Francis Marion was called the Swamp Fox, because he loved to hide out in this area and it’s tough to get to, ” quipped Quinn.