SC Utilities Worry About Power Restoration

September 14, 2018

MATT LONG (South Carolina Radio Network): Utility officials warn the latest Hurricane Florence forecasts suggest the storm could hover off the Carolina coastline before it slowly moved across the state over the weekend. That means those who lose power over the next two days could be without it for some time.

The National Weather Service predicts Florence will slow down after reaching Carolina waters and could slowly pass over the state for two days until it weakens into a tropical storm and eventual tropical depression.

However, it’s that slow two-day journey which worries emergency response officials. Office of Regulatory Staff director Nannette Edwards said crews may not be able to respond to power outages until the storm passes — which could take time.

“The crews cannot go out and begin restoration efforts until it is safe to do so,” she told reporters in a news briefing Thursday. “Because we now understand the winds could be 30 miles per hour or greater for a sustained period of time, the utility crews may not go out until it is safe to do so.”

Santee Cooper employees place sandbags earlier this week
Image: Santee Cooper

Those words were echoed by utilities, including South Carolina Electric & Gas president Keller Kissam. Kissam compared Florence’s potential impact to a 2014 ice storm which ground much of the state to a halt in 2014.

“We had that ice storm back in 2014 and the temperature did not get above freezing for three days,” Kissam said. “So we’d put lines back up and those lines would go back down. This storm is going to be just like that from the standpoint that it’s such a slow mover.”

Duke Energy Carolinas said it expects 1-3 million homes across both North and South Carolina to lose power in Florence’s aftermath.

South Carolina Electric Cooperatives urged homeowners to be patient once crews are able to get out into the field. “We know consumers want their power restored in a matter of hours,” The Electric Cooperatives of South Carolina Vice President of Loss Control Todd Carter said in a release. “But with damage that a hurricane can cause, sometimes ‘quickly’ means a day or two or more.”