The T&D Region was spared the worst of Hurricane Irma's wrath as it moved across the area Monday.

"We came through this very well," Orangeburg County Emergency Services Director Billy Staley said.

While the storm hit Florida as a Category 4 hurricane, it took a path away from South Carolina and later dropped down to a tropical storm.

There were no reports of structural damage or houses with trees on them in Orangeburg County. There were also no emergency response needs during the storm's height, Staley said.

About 100 people were sheltered at the county's four shelters at the storm's height. The shelters closed Tuesday morning.

Orangeburg Department of Public Utilities spokesman Randy Etters said utility officials are breathing a sigh of relief.

"We experienced much less than what we originally had seen for the forecast," he said.

At the height of the storm, the utility had about 2,000 customers without power, primarily due to fallen limbs.

"We had everybody back on with the exception of two customers who had damage to their home," he said. Utility boxes must be fixed by the homeowner before DPU can reconnect them.

"All in all, our guys worked really hard in the middle of it,” Etters said.

During Hurricane Matthew, the utility had more than 19,000 without power at the storm's height.

Bamberg County

In Bamberg County, there were no reports of damage through late Tuesday morning.

"We did not have anything damaged except for a lot of trees down," Bamberg County Emergency Services Director Brittany Barnwell said.

The county was closing down its shelter on Tuesday. It housed about 16 at the height of the storm.

Calhoun County

"We prepared for the worst. It is better to do that than not to prepare and be surprised," Calhoun County Emergency Services Director Bill Minikiewicz said.

Minikiewicz said no houses were damaged and about ten trees were removed from county roads.

At the storm's height, there were 18 people in the county’s shelter. It closed Tuesday.

Winds

The highest wind gust recorded during Irma was 54 mph. It occurred around 3:14 p.m. at the Orangeburg Municipal Airport, according to the National Weather Service.

The highest sustained winds reached 32 mph, which occurred during the 2 p.m. to 3 p.m. hour at an Orangeburg Department of Public Utilities recording station.

Rain

Orangeburg County saw about 3.15 inches of rain during the storm at a reporting station four miles east-southeast of Neeses. One Orangeburg recording station got 4 inches of rain.

In Bamberg County, a reporting station near Denmark recorded 6.14 inches of rain while a station southeast of Ehrhardt reported 5.36 inches.

The rainfall totals were recorded by Community Collaborative Rain, Hail and Snow Network reporting volunteers. The network has no reporting stations in Calhoun County.

Local rivers

The North Fork of the Edisto River in Orangeburg rose from about 3.66 feet to 6.13 feet during Irma. The river is expected to crest Friday morning at 7.7 feet. This is below the flood level of 8 feet.

The Congaree River at Carolina Eastman rose from about 3.7 feet to 4.52 feet during Irma. The river is forecast to crest at 8.9 feet Thursday evening. The flood stage is at 10 feet.

Area utilities

Tri-County Electric Cooperative had restored power to all its customers by Tuesday.

"We did real good," Tri-County Electric Cooperative spokesman Bert Walling said. "We thought the storm was not going to be as bad as it was because it had veered so far west.

“It was worse than we thought but we did better than we thought. We fought it pretty hard."

Walling said most of Tri-County’s outages were in the Richland County area.

South Carolina Electric and Gas was still dealing with power outages on Tuesday.

At the storm's height, SCE&G reported Orangeburg County had approximately 600 outages, Bamberg County had approximately 150 and Calhoun County had approximately 50 outages at the system-wide peak outage time.

By Tuesday afternoon, nearly all SCE&G customers in The T&D Region had power restored.

Edisto Electric had about 25 Orangeburg County and 22 Bamberg county customers remaining without power Tuesday afternoon.

At the storm's height, Aiken Electric Cooperative had about 367 Orangeburg County customers and 79 Calhoun County customers without power.

Power was restored for Aiken Electric’s Orangeburg and Calhoun county customers by the end of Tuesday.

Coastal Electric customers in Bamberg County had power restored by Tuesday.

Roads

The S.C. Department of Transportation reported no road closures in The T&D Region Tuesday morning. Statewide, there were 141 roads closed through Tuesday afternoon as a result of Irma.

It was slow going for motorists on Interstate 26 in Orangeburg and Calhoun counties Tuesday as evacuees headed back to the coast and to their Florida homes. Traffic was often at a standstill.

"It is heavy all the way from Columbia down I-26 and it is real heavy the closer you get to the 26 and I-95 interchange," S.C. Highway Patrol Lance Cp. Judd Jones said Tuesday. "Once you get on the interchange and on I-95, it opens up."

Jones said the traffic was heavy all day.

"We have troopers out monitoring it," he said.

Agriculture

Clemson Extension Agent Charles Davis said local farmers “dodged a big bullet” from Irma.

"All in all, we are in good shape," Davis said. The most significant damage is that cotton was “wind-whipped and wrapped around each other.”

"Most of the cotton had begun to open up and we had all the leaves on it," he said. "The leaves gave us some protection from the wind."

"The biggest issue will be defoliation," Davis continued. "We will not be able to drive through these fields. We will have to defoliate by airplane."

Davis said using a plane will add to costs and reduce defoliation precision. The quality of the cotton should not be severely impacted.

Davis said with 95 percent of corn harvested, there won't be an impact on corn, and it was so dry that peanuts benefited from the rains.

"Even though we had five or six inches of rain, you will hardly find a mud puddle out there," he said.

Davis said soybeans, like cotton, were also wind-whipped.

Davis said there were no major reports of damage to sprinkling systems or ag-use buildings.

Contact the writer: gzaleski@timesanddemocrat.com or 803-533-5551. Check out Zaleski on Twitter at @ZaleskiTD.

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Gene Zaleski is a reporter/staff writer with The Times and Democrat.

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