NEWBERRY COUNTY — South Carolina residents braced for Hurricane Irma’s impact over the weekend and the strong winds, rain and possible tornadoes that would occur.
In Newberry County, the storm — downgraded to Tropical Storm Irma after its track changed — knocked down a lot of trees throughout the county, causing thousands to lose power.
“We had about 75 down trees, handled by Fire and Rescue and SCDOT (South Carolina Department of Transportation), and had a couple of houses that had damage to them, and several out buildings that had damage, ranges of six to 10,” said Tommy Long, Newberry County emergency service coordinator. “Winds did not get as high as we thought they were gong to get. We were fortunate the winds did not get as high as we thought.”
Debra Shaw, vice president of Member and Public Relations at Newberry Electric Cooperative, said that about 2,000 members were without power for most of the day on Monday.
“We had one call this morning of a tree that fell and pulled a line down. Power was lost county wide (Monday). The most outages we had was about 2,000, and then last night (Monday night), around midnight, we had it down to 1,000, this morning (Tuesday) down to 800,” she said.
By the end of the day on Tuesday, Shaw said all customers had power.
Most of the city’s outages Monday were due to fallen tree limbs on power lines. Throughout the entire day, they estimate approximately 350 customers were without power, with the largest outage at one given time being 175 customers. The average customer was without power for approximately two hours.
“I’m appreciative of the hard work and dedication of our electric crew,” said Utilities Director Tim Baker. “All city customers’ power was restored before midnight on Monday.”
Most of the calls Public Works had on Monday were due to debris such as tree limbs in the road.
“I think our crew did a really great job,” said Mac Bartley, director of public works for the city. “They all worked together to clean up debris and cleaned the storm drains all day Monday.”
Bartley said they would continue to pick up limbs that had fallen in customers’ yards. As customers bring those to the road, public works will pick those up. Bartley said that could take a couple of weeks depending on the amount. The crews will continue to use the street sweeper and take care of as much of the debris as they can.
Shaw said that the main cause for power outages for NEC members were the trees that fell and took power lines with them. Shaw credited all of their people who worked diligently to get the power back on, even in dangerous situations.
“Our linemen and office personnel worked hard throughout the day and the night, to bring power back on to our members, under very dangerous situations. One of our engineering folks was sitting in his truck and at one of the sights, a tree fell across his windshield and busted it in his lap,” Shaw said. “Wind was dangerous, and posed a dangerous situation for a lot of our folks. We had people in the office all night long, taking outage calls and sending our guys exactly where to go.”
Long also mentioned that many of the first responders came together as a team, and worked together as a true team. Many of the calls that came in were about trees being down, and the power being out. Sheriff Lee Foster added that there were very few calls for traditional law enforcement services.
“We worked really close together with Fire and Rescue, and Public Works. That was a great team effort, but the big credit of this whole thing really should go to Fire and Rescue personnel who went out and cut the trees down, and we really need to make sure we give credit to the electrical crews. We all worked in some tough conditions, but the electrical crews especially,” he said.
Newberry Police Chief Roy McClurkin echoed Foster’s statement about team work.
“Having a great working relationship with other agencies and first responders affected by this event made our jobs very manageable and aided us in keeping the citizens in the city and county safe,” he said.
Reach Andrew Wigger at 803-276-0625 ext. 1867 or on Twitter @ TheNBOnews.