Tuesday, February 18, 2014
Last week South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley said in a Facebook post that devastation from the storm was on the same level or worse than Hurricane Hugo in 1989. The governor's assessment of Winter Storm Pax is evident in Williamsburg County. Besides unsafe road conditions, thousands of felled trees and tons of debris, Pax crippled the electric system that we all depend upon. Most of the outages, according to Santee Electric Cooperative, were caused by ice collecting on limbs and trees that in turn fell across power lines. The South Carolina Emergency Management Division, a division of the Adjutant General's Office, reported at 11 a.m. on Thursday 346,000 outages were reported across the state. Of Santee Electric's 44,226 total members affected, about 12,000 were in Williamsburg County, followed by 9,000 in Clarendon County, 9,000 in Florence County, approximately 12,000 in Georgetown County. Two days prior to the storm, Santee Electric Cooperative began calling in assistance. As a result, more than 250 extra men worked to get electricity restored. Duke Energy also brought in additional resources from the company’s Midwest and Florida operations that included helicopter trimming crews. Crews, including 3,900 field workers, worked to restore 91,000 outages across the Carolinas. In addition, other crews traveled from Sumter as well as Tennessee, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Tennessee. Law enforcement, emergency personnel, local road crews and the Department of Transportation worked non-stop clearing roads, sanding bridges and responding to calls. Williamsburg County Sheriff Michael Johnson commended all the public service personnel for their dedication to the saftey of its citizens. "This storm showed how prepared we are, as a public saftey department," said Johnson. "The effects of the storm were mush greater than we anticipated but we did a great job in handling the challenges. All the first responders stood up to the challenges and we got it done." Some of those challenges were clearing roadways; a responsibility of the Department of Transportation but teamwork pulled everybody through. "DOT was on board with us the whole way. They did everything they could to keep up with the demand but it was overwhelming for all of us." Another challenge was the ability to keep warm. "As the power started to go out the challenges got tough. Our shelters were activated for anyone who needed a safe warm place." Johnson agreed with the governor's Facebook assessment. "The damage is equal to or worse than the damage from hurricane Hugo, especially for tree farmers who could lose almost 100 percent of their farms." Assessments continue to come in regarding timber damage. On Saturday, the South Carolina Forestry Commission conducted reconnaissance flights across three of the Forestry Commission's operating regions. In the Pee Dee Region, pilots observed heavy weather damage to stands from Timmonsville to Olanta and down to Williamsburg Co., with lower Florence County appearing to have gotten the worst of the storm. An experienced Forestry Commission pilot observed significant snapping damage to trees in northern Williamsburg Co. The next survey will begin this week. The storm may also be blamed for the death of a 70-year-old man. On Thursday morning, the Kingstree Fire Department responded to a call of a fire with possible entrapment. Williamsburg County Coroner Harrison McKnight said Jonathan Page was found dead on a couch. When firefighters entered the apartment located on Wilson Bouie Blvd. they found light smoke and a table smoldering, seemingly from a candle. The cause of death is pending an autopsy.