Weather News

Power out, roads blocked as Midlands begins cleanup

Trees down in front of the South Carolina State House after Hurricane Hugo swept through the state.
Trees down in front of the South Carolina State House after Hurricane Hugo swept through the state. The State file photo

More from the series

Hurricane Hugo coverage from The State: Sept. 17 - Sept. 24, 1989

Read more stories from The State’s original reporting of Hurricane Hugo in 1989. From Hugo’s collision with the Caribbean islands and Puerto Rico to its catastrophic landfall near Charleston, The State kept readers up-to-date with vital news about the event that turned into the worst storm South Carolina has ever seen.

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This story was first published in The State on September 22, 1989.

Savage winds strewed debris across the Midlands early Friday, leaving 135,000 homes without power and some with no telephone link to the outside world after Hurricane Hugo swept through.

The worst damage was in Eastover, where one man was crushed by a fallen tree, and uprooted trees pulled water lines out of the ground, leaving the town without water.

Hugo left in his wake fallen trees and wind damage throughout the Columbia area. Power lines were down, street lights were out, and some roads were impassable.

South Carolina Electric & Gas Co. reported 115,000 customers were without power in Richland and Lexington counties. Mid-Carolina Electric Cooperative said 70 percent of its service area was darkened, an estimated 20,000 homes and businesses.

Southern Bell spokesman Don Caughman said the phone company had no idea Friday morning how many customers were without service. “If they don’t have a telephone working, they can’t call us and let us know,” he said.

He estimated phone outages were minimal, and most repairs will be made to individual lines into homes and businesses.

Richland County Sheriff Allen Sloan said 911 lines were jammed with calls about the storm and urged people not to use that number except in “real emergencies.”

“If a tree is down, that is not an emergency so don’t call,” he said.

Only three storm-related injuries were treated at area hospitals, but some hospital personnel said they expected more as debris is cleared.

One local woman spent the night in the lobby of Richland Memorial Hospital where she had access to electrical power for her respirator.

Business in the Columbia area was subject to the capriciousness of electrical power.

Those that had power Friday morning, such as Dutch Square mall in the St. Andrews area, opened. Columbia Mall, however, did not have electrical power.

The storm swept into Columbia before dawn, with winds gusting up to 80 mph. But by midday, skies were sunny again.

The National Weather Service said that this afternoon, the Midlands can expect temperatures in the mid-80s, clouds and decreasing winds, meteorologist Dick Mathews said.

“The worst is way over,” he said, adding that no rain is expected. “We’ve had enough for a while.”

The Midlands was braced for flooding and possible twisters, but some businesses were able to open, and residents began cleaning up damage.

Downtown, power was on this morning and traffic signals were working, but signs of the storm were not hard to find. Several big trees were uprooted at the State House grounds, and crews were sawing them up. At least a few billboards and a number of other signs were damaged. The University of South Carolina horseshoe was littered with fallen tree limbs.

Forest Acres residents were digging out from under an avalanche of trees that fell in yards and across streets. Power outages were widespread, and traffic signals were out.

Most businesses were closed, but The Other Store, a convenience store at Astacadero Drive and Bethel Church Road, wasn’t one of them.

Owner Linda Sellers said that even though the store didn’t have electricity, she opened because neighborhood residents, some of whom walk to the store, depend on her.

Customers who stopped by gave her the news about the state of their yards.

One of them, Joe Orr of Forest Acres, feared that he had lost his mobile home at Ocean Lakes Campground near North Myrtle Beach. He’d made an emergency trip there Wednesday to remove his belongings.

“I’ve heard all kinds of news this morning,” Ms. Sellers said. “This store’s been kind of like a community action center.”

American Blue Print on North Main Street lost four windows. The Krispy Kreme doughnuts shop next door lost its sign.

Eau Claire and north Columbia had no electricity or traffic lights over a widespread area. In Fairwold, several streets were blocked by fallen trees, flooding and downed electrical wires. Signs were damaged, and pieces of them littered the roads.

In the Meadowlake subdivision north of I-20, James T. Burgess said he didn’t have any trees down, but the wind had knocked over his television antenna and his power was out.

At 6103 Poplar Ridge, it was “like a tornado came through the back yard. It knocked over four trees in different directions. One landed on our house,” Jennie Latts said.

In East Columbia, trees were down on Sumter Highway and Garners Ferry Road.

A woman who lives on Hallwood Road in Eastover said, “It looks like a freight train went wild. Every tree in my yard is down. You can’t see my house from the road. It took one porch all the way off.”

Fallen trees made Bluff Road impassable at Griffins Creek Road. Lower Richland area appeared particularly hard hit, with trees blocking many secondary roads.

In Lexington County, power outages were reported along U.S. 378 west of Lexington on Lake Murray. The Leesville and Batesburg areas escaped the wrath of storm. There were some downed trees and power lines, but there was no flooding or injuries.

Irmo Mayor Maxcy Carter assessed the situation in his town: “We have a number of trees on homes and some have fallen on automobiles.”

Kenny and Keith Crosswhite, who live at 115 Larkspur in Irmo, had gotten an estimate from a tree remover to remove two tall pine trees in their back yard. But the hurricane did it for them, they said. One was uprooted. The other merely fell.