Weather News

Officials not sure how long power will be off

Hurricane Hugo devastated the South Carolina coastline and inland communities on September 21st and 22nd 1989. A television sits quietly on a sandbar on the Intracoastal Waterway.
Hurricane Hugo devastated the South Carolina coastline and inland communities on September 21st and 22nd 1989. A television sits quietly on a sandbar on the Intracoastal Waterway.

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 first appeared in The State on September 22, 1989.

Hugo left most of South Carolina in the dark, and power company officials said this morning the storm’s damage was so severe that they couldn’t even guess how long it would take to restore power.

S.C. Electric & Gas Co. spokesman Robin Montgomery said three-quarters of the company’s 430,000 customers -- including 115,000 in Richland and Lexington counties and everyone east of Interstate 95 -- were without power after Hugo slammed through the state. He said it could take two or three days just to assess the damage from what was clearly the worst hit the company has ever taken.

”We are expecting a long period of time, and we do know that’s inconvenient, but this was truly a disaster, and it’s something that we have to deal with one day at a time,” Montgomery said. “In some cases, it’s like starting from scratch.”

More than half the customers served by the state’s electric cooperatives were without power, and co-op officials said it could be a week before service was restored. In addition to damage suffered by the co-ops, which serve 35 counties, Santee Cooper was not producing any power this morning, said Charlie Webster, manager of the Horry County Electric Cooperative.

SCE&G and the co-ops together serve about two-thirds of the state.

Officials at Duke Power Co., which has about 500,000 Piedmont customers in South Carolina, didn’t know how many customers in the state were without power by late morning. Spokeswoman Anne Sheffield said Charlotte had been hardest hit, with about 90 percent of the 235,000 customers powerless.

Southern Bell fared better, with only one switching center, on Kiawah Island, out of power, said Don Caughman, a spokesman. Other than that, he said, phone problems were limited to individual lines.

He said crews were being brought in from other states, but it was impossible to tell how long it would be before everybody’s service was restored since the problems were so isolated.

Both local and long distance service was slow and spotty across the state because of increased use.

Officials with Santee Cooper, the state-owned power company, had no idea how long they would be powerless.

”We’ve just been flattened,” Jerry Stafford, a spokesman for Santee Cooper, told The Associated Press. “One building just peeled open like a can opener.”

Stafford said Thursday the company did not plan to begin restoring lines until the full force of the storm had passed.

Many industrial users of Santee Cooper, which serves 85,000 customers in Berkeley, Horry and Georgetown counties, shut down Thursday. The utility set transformers for automatic shutdown at the first sign of storm damage, spokesman Jerry Stafford said.

Webster said he had been told that Santee Cooper’s Myrtle Beach generator would be operating by early this afternoon.