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Thunderstorms knock out power to thousands in Orangeburg
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Thunderstorms knock out power to thousands in Orangeburg

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A line of strong thunderstorms rolled through the Orangeburg area for several hours Sunday evening, prompting frequent lightning and causing some power outages.

"Very aggressive storms have been crossing our area the last couple of days," Orangeburg Department of Public Utilities spokesman Randy Etters said.

“While most outages have been limited to several customers at the time whose transformer has been struck by lightning, we did have a direct strike on our substation located adjacent to Hwy. 178 (North Road)," he said.

"This strike activated the system’s emergency protection equipment that locked out a switch, keeping dangerous power from spilling back onto the system," Etters said. "This had to be evaluated on-site and manually restarted by our staff in the midst of the storm."

Etters said the outage impacted about 4,000 customers in the area for approximately one hour.

There were no reports of storm-related damage, according to regional emergency officials.

The strong storms were caused by an unusually warm and moist weather pattern for the middle of January. Temperatures have reached into the 70s with lows in the 60s.

The average high temperature for this time of year is in the mid-50s.

Rainfall totals have also been somewhat impressive.

A rainfall monitoring station about 7 miles southeast of Neeses reported 3.82 inches of rain for Jan. 11-12. A North station reported about 3.32 inches of rain.

A station about 3 miles northwest of Orangeburg reported 2.69 inches during the time period, while another station closer to the city reported 1.32 inches.

In Calhoun County, about 1.54 inches of rain fell. A Denmark station recorded 2.55 inches of rain.

Recent heavy rains have saturated soils and prompted the National Weather Service to issue a flood warning for the North Fork Edisto River at Orangeburg through Thursday afternoon.

The river was at 7.74 feet at 2 p.m. Monday.

Minor flooding is forecast as the river is expected to crest at 8.2 feet on Tuesday afternoon. The flood stage is 8 feet.

The Congaree River at Carolina Eastman is expected to crest at 120.3 feet Wednesday morning. The flood stage is at 115 feet.

The South Fork of the Edisto River in Bamberg County is not expected to reach flood stage.

Looking ahead, there is a chance of showers and thunderstorms each day through Wednesday night due to a frontal boundary draped near the area, according to the NWS.

High temperatures will be in the mid-70s through Thursday.

The front will finally push south of the area Thursday with dry weather and more seasonable temperatures on Friday.

Showers are expected to return late Friday into the weekend as a low pressure system develops west of the region.

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

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