More than 197,000 electric power customers of Santee Cooper and Horry Electric Cooperative were without power Saturday night, and few of them were finding relief Sunday morning.
Strong winds from Hurricane Matthew and its aftermath downed trees and electric poles, stalling power service to homes and closing businesses from Georgetown County to the North Carolina state line.
Penelope Hinson, spokeswoman with Horry Electric, said that 90 percent of its operation was down Sunday aftternoon.
“We have 24 substations and only nine of those have [power] transmissions,” Hinson said, meaning more than 70,000 were without power.
Hinson said many line crews were finding trees on power lines between the substations and homes, as well as downed lines. She said the company couldn’t give an estimate on when power would be fully restored.
“There’s no way we can do that because there are so many variables and we don’t want to disappoint our customers,” Hinson said. “We just ask for patience. We live here too and most of us also without power.
“We’re all in the same boat but we’ll get through this.”
Santee Cooper reported 126,533 Horry and Georgetown County customers without power as of 9:30 p.m. Saturday. No one with the company could be reached Sunday morning for comment.
Santee Cooper said Saturday that Hurricane Matthew has delivered the biggest hit to its transmission and distribution system since Hurricane Hugo 27 years ago.
Statewide, Hurricane Matthew caused extensive, widespread damage to the power systems of electric cooperatives in South Carolina. At 8 p.m. Saturday, 292,000 outages were affecting almost 40 percent of the whole co-op distribution system, according to a release from the Electric Cooperatives of South Carolina.
The amount of damage requires more help from electric co-op crews from out of state. Lineworkers from Georgia, Kentucky, Tennessee and Virginia are in the Palmetto State to help make repairs.
“The hurricane certainly left its mark,” said Todd Carter, vice president for loss control and training at The Electric Cooperatives of South Carolina, via press release. Carter, who was a line worker at Black River Electric in Sumter when Hurricane Hugo ripped through the state, said co-op crews encountered a multitude of challenges after the storm exited the state.
“Travel was a nightmare today,” Carter said in the release. “Ninety percent of a lineman’s job is getting to the job site. That was hard to do for a lot of crews today.”
The S.C. Dept. of Transportation reported more than 300 roads and nine bridge closures at 6 p.m. Saturday.