Santee Electric Cooperative details how it’s dealing with widespread power outages

  • Thursday, February 13, 2014

  • Updated Thursday, February 13, 2014 7:31 pm

Niki Howard/For The Times This utility pole is just being held up by the attached power lines and cable. It's in the Maryville section of Georgetown.

People around the frozen and barely-starting-to-thaw South Carolina Lowcountry are wondering when power will be restored.

Many are asking:

When will my power be back on?

Why does my neighbor have lights and I don't?

I can't get through on the phones. What's up?

Are the linemen working, or just goofing off?

Why can't they do it faster?

Is there enough material to make the repairs?

These and many other questions keep coming up as thousands of people will be spending another day and night without power as the temperature remains in the 30s.

Adrel Langley, manager of community relations for Santee Electric Cooperative in Kingstree, explained these and other points to the Georgetown Times Thursday afternoon.

“The reason we can't give a [power] restoration time is, each outage is different. If it's at a substation, we go out from there. If there's extensive damage, like broken lines or transformer that have to be replaced, the linemen have to go on so they can help the most people, and then come back.

“I assure you all our guys are working as hard as they can.”

“I know it's been frustrating with the phone lines out. The phone lines are connected to the same lines. Something happened between Georgetown and Andrews,” Langley said.

Santee Electric has been talking with the emergency management division people in Georgetown and Williamsburg counties and other affected areas, she continued.

“We've been working with our telephone providers and EMD.”

As for when people can expect their power to be turned back on, Langley said, it may be that in some cases someone has been given a time frame. However, company policy is not to give out an estimated time.

She knows, too, that some people may get frustrated when they see their neighbors have power, but they don't.

“Power comes from different directions. A tree or a limb could have fallen on an individual line. It also could be a fuse or something inside a house that causes power not to come on,” Langley said.

Sometimes, too, people may think they can maneuver around a line or a pole.

“Precautions always need to be taken around downed poles or lines. You have to assume they're live.”

She noted that shelters have been set up in affected areas.

The locations are on the co-op's Web site and Facebook page.

http://www.santee.org

Santee Electric Cooperative

To report an outage, the co-op asks people to call their automated Outage System at 1-888-239-2300.

Even though there have been problems for some people to get through to the co-op, Langley said, it's important to call to report a power outage. They also have a system of “pinging” through a power line to help determine where an outage may occur.

And, if you see a downed power line or a transformer “blow out,” she also asks that you call to let them know where that problem is.

At the height of the outages, there were about 40,000 customers without power. While the number fluctuates, as of Thursday afternoon the number had decreased to about 36,000.

There are a multitude of electric cooperatives and investor-owned power companies in the state affected by the winter storm.

“It's a statewide effort,” she said.

Crews are already on scene or on their way from Florida, Kentucky, Mississippi, Tennessee and North Carolina.

The Tennessee crews will be helping Santee Electric Co-Op, she said. There are also some in-state contract crews that are helping.

Of the co-ops, seven in the state are not affected and have crews assisting other co-ops.

With the sleet and snow that fell during winter storm Leon two weeks ago, Santee Electric Cooperative had already prepared by getting additional line, poles and transformers, as well as other materials. That was dispersed around the four-county area of Georgetown, Williamsburg, Florence and Clarendon where they have member-customers.

Linemen do get to rest during the course of a power outage, but Langley said they work steadily to help restore electricity.

“These guys have families at home without power,” so they know what it's like, she said.

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