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SC utilities brace for “significant threat” to power supply as Hurricane Dorian looms

Santee Cooper is bracing for potentially “significant’’ threats to its electrical system as Hurricane Dorian moves toward South Carolina later this week.

The state-owned utility is checking equipment and making sure trucks are ready to roll if the hurricane leaves any of its customers in the dark, spokeswoman Mollie Gore said Monday. The company also planned to use up to three helicopters to help assess the damage after Dorian passes.

Santee Cooper serves more than 2 million people in South Carolina, either directly or indirectly.

The company also expects to be in contact with South Carolina’s other major utilities, Duke Energy and Dominion Energy, the latter of which serves Columbia and Charleston. The alert status for Santee Cooper’s service territory, which is Myrtle Beach and parts of rural South Carolina, is that “a significant threat’’ faces its power system, Gore said in an email.

Gore said the company is hoping the hurricane doesn’t cause much damage in South Carolina, but the company is preparing for the worst.

“If hurricane force winds come right up the coast, we do have quite a lot of equipment and customers right there,’’ she said. “Everything we have seen right now shows us we need to be prepared for impacts, especially along the coast.’’

In preparation for the storm, Santee Cooper postponed its board meeting, scheduled for Tuesday. The board was supposed to discuss a new plan to phase out coal as an energy source.

Meanwhile, Duke Energy was preparing to deploy extra help to its eastern South Carolina service territory from the company’s service area in the upstate and mountains of the Carolinas, spokesman Ryan Mosier said Monday.

The company said restoring power after a storm can be “extremely challenging’’ because travel and work conditions often have been impacted. The company said crews would respond to any power outages as soon as the storm passes.

“Hurricane Dorian is bringing strong winds and heavy rains that could result in downed power lines and significant outages,” according to a statement from Jason Hollifield, Duke Energy’s incident commander for the Carolinas. “Our line technicians, call center reps and other personnel are gearing up to respond, and we encourage our customers to prepare as well.”

Dominion Energy said later Monday that it had secured 40 tree contractors and was bringing in extra line workers to help with the storm’s aftermath. Like Santee Cooper, the company said it would use helicopters to assess storm damage after the weather clears.

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