Staying warm a challenge for some in Midlands

tflach@thestate.com /dhinshaw@thestate.comFebruary 13, 2014 

Justin Smith, with Mid-Carolina Electric Co-Op re-fuses a cutout to restore power to customers near Gilbert, SC.

TIM DOMINICK — tdominick@thestate.com Buy Photo

COLUMBIA, SC Rose Ferrera made a 15-mile trip over sometimes icy country roads to get warm Thursday after spending a cold night at her home near Gilbert.

Even at age 90, she said, you never get used to severe winter storms that can knock out the lights and heat – and, in her case, the pump serving her house with well water.

“You never really get used to them,” she said. “You put up with them.”

Ferrera was among about 15,000 residents in largely rural sections of Lexington and Richland counties coping without electricity.

Utility crews spent the day trying to restore power to homes scattered across the Chapin, Eastover, Gilbert, Horrell Hill, Pelion, Red Bank and Swansea areas.

Fallen trees made that a challenge, particularly in rural areas, officials said.

“It’s slow going on the back roads,” said Eddie Richardson, spokesman for Mid-Carolina Electric Cooperative.

Batesburg-Leesville Mayor Rita Crapps, whose community was largely unaffected, described the outages as “hit and miss.”

Like a few residents, Ferrara sought out shelter. For her, it was a senior center in Swansea.

But many others chose to try to keep warm at home while awaiting restoration of power that officials warn could take two or three more days.

The outages are no surprise for some residents, given the storm’s intensity.

“People know it’s going to happen in inclement weather,” Gilbert Mayor Randy Clamp said.

Lexington County Councilman Jim Kinard and his wife, Lynette, huddled in front of a propane-fueled fireplace in their great room to stay warm after sealing off the rest of their house near Swansea.

The couple played games and cooked soup before falling asleep on the couch.

“We’re going to hang in here,” said Kinard, who rated this storm worse than one he experienced as a youngster in the Lowcountry 40 years ago.

Michael Byrd, Richland County’s emergency services director, said three people without power Thursday sought warmth at the fire station in Eastover.

For the first time, Richland County arranged for about 20 possible shelters, including fire stations and the S.C. Baptist Convention, in case of widespread power outages. Those needing emergency shelter may call (803) 576-2682.

Byrd said side roads were still in bad shape Thursday.

“We’ve had several ambulances get stuck that were on calls; we had to pull them out,” he said. “We’ve been getting a lot of nurses and doctors to the hospital who had to report in but could not get in. And we’ve had one nursing home that had a brief power outage.”

The Rev. Roger Orman said he was “almost disappointed” that no one had made use of the Baptist Convention’s office building off Greystone Boulevard. There, employees were prepared with cans of soup, peanut butter and jelly, plus 25 cots set up by the Red Cross.

“We’re going to put together a game plan so if we’re asked to do it again, we’ll have blankets and games in a closet we’ll pull out,” Orman said.

Some 1,300 homes in Lower Richland served by Tri-County Electric still were without power Thursday afternoon, chief executive officer Chad Lowder said.

“Most of our outages are in the Eastover/601 end of Lower Richland County,” he said.

That area of the county got rain, sleet and ice – not snow, resident Heath Hill said.

“It is terrible here,” he said.

Lowder said he would expect intermittent outages into Friday as icy limbs break and snap power lines. “Customers need to realize there are going to be interruptions,” he said. “Hopefully, by late Friday, everything should be close to back to normal.”

The outages began Wednesday in other parts of South Carolina as sleet, snow and frozen rain arrived, with most of the problems in the Columbia area occurring shortly before dawn Thursday, officials said.

Hopkins resident Lillie Bates had power but said some of her neighbors, including the corner store, were without it.

“Most people make preparations as best they can and just deal with it,” she said.

Aiken area: ‘It’s pretty bad’ - by Roddie Burris

Joseph Oller, who lives in the Hammond Hills neighborhood of North Augusta, was part of a large contingent of people in the Aiken area who lined up at Stuckey’s truck stop Thursday to get a meal from Subway or a cup of coffee.

Virtually the entire region lost power during the ice and snow storm Wednesday and Thursday.

“There’s transformers down in the road, telephone poles down in the road – it’s pretty bad,” said Oller, who said he has lived in Aiken County for more than 50 years and has never seen a storm like this one.

Aiken-area residents filled all the local hotels in the city by Wednesday afternoon, but overnight and early Thursday those establishments lost power, too.

People scrambled to stay warm and scrounged for food.

The pristine one-way parkways and large, old trees the city is known for were devastated by the heavy ice.

Driven from the city, people formed lines at gas stations over much of the county where they were able to open.

Bill Adams and his wife live in the Belvedere area. They lost power Wednesday at about 9 p.m., then went on the search for food and power to recharge phones.

“We got up, didn’t have any heat or electricity, so we couldn’t cook, couldn’t heat up, no hot water or anything, so we had to go out and try to find some food.”

A Pennsylvania native, Adams said he’s never seen it this cold in the area in the 15 years he has lived here.

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