Tens of thousands were left without power throughout The T&D Region on Saturday as Hurricane Matthew’s strong winds knocked trees out of the rain-soaked ground.
About 20,431 Department of Public Utilities customers were without power at 1 p.m. Saturday, the peak of the outage.
"It is a mess," DPU spokesman Randy Etters said.
"Inside the city limits we have lines down, poles snapped on Middleton, Broughton, Columbia Road, Riverbank,” he said. "The roads are impassable. There is a lot of vegetation that has been destroyed and it has destroyed a lot of infrastructure."
Etters said he could not begin to estimate the damage, but said DPU crews are working as fast as they can.
A South Carolina Electric & Gas feeder line that provides power to the City of Orangeburg was damaged during the storm and DPU's back-up 115 kilovolt line was also knocked out. The line is in a swampy portion of the Belleville area.
"We need to bring in specific equipment," Etters said.
He said bringing the line back up would provide 6,000 to 7,000 more customers with power, depending if there was any other damage to the connection line.
People are asked not to walk near downed power lines.
Etters said there were a number of trees down on Pike, Brewton and Middleton streets.
"We did notice that the majority of trees that came down came down from the base," Etters said. "The ground was saturated and there were loose soils."
Etters said the utility was dealing with power outages all night long.
"It was fruitless," he said. "Once you got a circuit activated, a tree would fall on it."
Etters said crews were out in full force trying to repair the damage. Carolina Tree Company was handling the tree trimming and there were 60 linemen on the way to the area from Rock Hill as part of DPU's mutual aid agreement.
SCE&G spokesman Eric Boomhower said 286,000 customers were without power.
"One third of our customers are without power," he said. "The next thing we will do is damage assessment and trying to figure out where we have the biggest challenges and making sure we have equipment to work on those. We are doing some limited things right now where the weather has settled down."
The utility reported about 12,632 Orangeburg County customers, 2,719 Calhoun County customers and 2,374 Bamberg County customers were without power through 2 p.m. Saturday.
"It is not since Hugo we have had this many out," Boomhower said. "This is the biggest issue we have dealt with."
He said the ice storm two years ago put about 151,000 in the dark.
"We will keep working until we get everybody back up," Boomhower said.
In Orangeburg County, Tri-County Electric Cooperative reported 3,990 outages, Edisto Electric Cooperative reported 2,840 outages and Aiken Electric Cooperative reported 1,331 outages through mid-Saturday afternoon.
In Bamberg County, Coastal Electric Cooperative reported 163 outages and Edisto Electric Cooperative reported 2,317 outages.
In Calhoun County, Tri-County Electric Cooperative reported 4,935 outages and Aiken Electric Cooperative reported 214 outages.
All electric cooperative crews were working to have the power restored.