The winter storm that was working its way across South Carolina Sunday plunged close to 100,000 power customers into darkness, according to the energy companies.
Those numbers could rise as the temperature falls and the storm continues to dump snow, freezing rain and sleet.
As of 5:45 p.m., a combined 86,337 power customers in South Carolina were without electricity, internet and phone service. Duke Energy reported 75,880 customers in S.C. had lost power.
Customers of the Electric Cooperatives of South Carolina were also without electricity, as that provider reported 10,361 outages. SCE&G and Santee Cooper reported far fewer outages, but that is likely the result of where the majority of their customers are located.
The storm hit the Upstate the hardest, and that is where the most power outages were reported. Close to 57,000 customers in Greenville County were in the dark, while more than 25,000 outages were reported in Spartanburg County.
Schools in Greenville County have announced they will be closed Monday, as 18 of the schools have lost power, and there is “no estimated time of restoration,” the Greenville News reported.
There were predictions that the storm could cause widespread blackouts, including several from the National Weather Service.
“Power outages and travel difficulties are expected in the warning area,” the NWS warned before heavy precipitation began Saturday.
It said the biggest factor causing power outages would be downed power lines, caused by a build up of ice on the lines, or on trees and branches that were knocked down by the storm.
Prior to the storm, Duke Energy said “more than six inches of snow or a quarter of an inch of ice accumulation will cause branches to sag and trees to fall, bringing power lines down with them,” the News & Observer reported. “Additionally, hazardous road conditions can result in vehicle accidents which further increase the risk for power outages as cars hit power poles and other electrical infrastructure.”
The S.C. Department of Transportation reported there is “significant concern regarding the potential for wet roads to refreeze overnight,” which could cause more crashes and potentially increase the number of outages.
Duke Energy, which also provides power to North Carolina residents, reported 240,110 outages in both Carolinas by Sunday afternoon.
A spokesman for the utility said it had about 9,000 employees working to assess damage and restore power Sunday, the Herald-Journal reported.
“For the Upstate in general it’s going to be a multi-day event,” Duke Energy spokesman Ryan Mosier said, according to the Greenville News. “We just encourage folks to be patient, but more importantly to be safe.”