Residents in a remote section of Aiken County on Tuesday saw their first power line repairmen, six days after a stubborn ice storm struck the region, leaving more than 350,000 customers across South Carolina without utility service.
Gum Swamp Road and Riverside Plantation Road in southern Aiken County are not at the end of the earth, but they are at land’s end, deep into swampy woods on the banks of the Savannah River, which separates South Carolina from Georgia.
About 15 homes on stilts line the banks of the river in these adjoining, heavily wooded neighborhoods, accessible by one road in or the river, where power went out at about 10:30 last Wednesday morning and residents had to cut their way out from behind fallen trees.
Crews from Mount Airy, N.C., worked into the evening Tuesday attempting to restore power to the homes and S.C. Electric & Gas said it was down to 240 customers still without power in Aiken County, though Aiken Electric Cooperative still had more than 1,700 outages in the area. Aiken was one of the hardest hit areas in the state, with nearly the entire county losing power at some point during the storm.
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Residents on Gum Swamp Road, meanwhile, were taking it all in stride.
“We weren’t expecting to get power back right away,” said Janet Ingram, who, along with her husband, was able to borrow a generator from a neighbor and afforded the privilege to use the shower. “We knew Wednesday it would be a while – there are few of us out here – everybody had to cut their way out, and we’re not mad at anyone.”
Most of the residents in the area have a generator now, the neighbors said, which requires a judicious use of the power it puts out, but is sustainable as long as there is fuel.
Resident Don Cooper said it is not unusual for power to go out in the area, considering the wind, though it has never stay off this long. Knowing the ice storm was coming, Cooper said he and his wife, Sherry, prepared ahead, stocking the place with food and other necessities, knowing they would rely on their 7,500-watt generator if things got hairy.
Even the generator needed fuel after a while, though, he said. “We had to cut our way out to go get gas for the generators,” said Cooper, who works at the nearby Savannah River Site.
SCE&G said it had about 400 of its crew and contract utility crew members working through the day Tuesday in Aiken County to restore power.