Sentinel Progress

Irma leaves thousands in county without power

PICKENS COUNTY — Thousands of county residents were without power following the heavy winds and rains brought on by Tropical Storm Irma.

Duke Power reported on Tuesday that 15,222 of their 25,766 Pickens County customers were without power — plunging nearly 60 percent of their service area into darkness.

Uprooted trees and broken branches were the number one culprits reported by area power companies as outage reports rolled in by the hundreds across the Upstate starting Monday afternoon.

Easley Combined Utilities escaped relatively unscathed in the storm. By noon on Tuesday the company was reporting zero outages within its 14,562 customer base.

For county residents outside their coverage area, it was a different story.

The Liberty, Norris, Six Mile and Pickens areas were all reporting widespread outages prompting out-of-state assistance to the areas two main power suppliers: Duke Power and Blue Ridge Electric.

The latter, Blue Ridge Electric Cooperative, was reporting 6,252 outages within the county on Sept. 12, down from over 7,000 the night before.

In all, as of Tuesday morning, around 50,000 people were without power across the Upstate thanks to Irma.

“Prevailing wind speeds and wind gusts, some topping 50 mph, have both increased in intensity since darkness fell this evening,” a spokesperson for Blue Ridge stated on Monday night. “These strong winds, coupled with the heavy rains that have saturated the ground, have resulted in many trees being uprooted. In multiple locations, fallen trees and broken limbs have torn down cooperative power lines and broken a considerable number of poles.”

The Co-Op stated the destruction was found “in essentially every corner of the Blue Ridge system” and that crews had “struggled throughout this emergency,” restoring power to lines, only to see them taken out of service again by continuing damage to the facilities.

Fresh crews were brought in from Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina and Broad River Electric Co-op in Gaffney to join with existing personnel with the power-restoration efforts on Tuesday morning, they announced.

“Some crews will continue to work through the nighttime hours, but progress is expected to be slow as long as the high winds continue,” the spokesperson said. “The extent of the damage would indicate that it could be several days before all members’ services will have been restored.”

Crews work to remove a downed tree on a power line on Brushy Creek Road in Easley. work to remove a downed tree on a power line on Brushy Creek Road in Easley. Kasie Strickland | The Sentinel-Progress

By Kasie Strickland

Reach Kase Strickland at 864-855-0355.