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Reflections of Hurricane Matthew

October 19, 2016   By Susan Mungo in Community

Santee Cooper crews and crews from out-of-state worked relentlessly to restore power in the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew that struck The heart of Santee Cooper’s service territory on Oct. 8.

As I sat in my office on Oct. 7 watching Hurricane Matthew do the “wobble”, I had no idea how much life would change for some that weekend. Today, power has been restored to all of our customers who can receive power and life has resumed some sense of normalcy. But for some, everything changed. In fact I think it is safe to say Hurricane Matthew left a mark on the people of South Carolina.

By Saturday afternoon, it appeared Gov. Haley and “Team South Carolina” had made a brilliant decision to evacuate the coastal areas of South Carolina. Instead of taking a projected big right turn, Matthew kept a straighter line and seemed to pound the coastal regions of South Carolina for hours. The storm, along with a high tide, chewed away at the sand dunes and piers along our beaches. The high winds and flooding rains hit the state hard. For Santee Cooper alone, 137,000 of our 178,000 customers were in the dark.

By Sunday morning, Santee Cooper began a process that would see over 1,000 people working in the field to bring power back to our customers.

The Santee Cooper team worked 12- to16-hour shifts, day and night, but we did not work alone. Contract crews, mutual aid and crews from other states came to this battered region to assist. Crews from Texas, Michigan, Alabama, Tennessee, Maryland, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Maine and North Carolina arrived to help rebuild the broken parts of our system.

Controllers oversaw our system integrity as we battled flooding at our generating stations, made repairs to over 80 transmission delivery points, patrolled lines and repaired the damage to our distribution system. The damage included trees on lines, broken poles, damaged transformers and downed power lines.

While the Red Cross provided food and shelter for those who had evacuated, Santee Cooper fed and sheltered their employees, as well as the hundreds who arrived to help. Other employees transported materials, manned phones to take outage calls and communicated with customers who were often left with no connection, other than a mobile device.

This team came together to accomplish one goal: 100 percent restoration. Many went on very little sleep and had no power themselves. They put their own lives and families on hold to help others. Some even worked while they knew rising rivers were racing toward their homes.

At times, there was confusion, exasperation, aggravation and even some eye rolling. But there was also laughter, helping hands, camaraderie, a team spirit and shared jubilation with each customer who came back on line.

No matter how hard we worked, we had customers who remained without power for days. We know it was difficult and frustrating for them. But we were overwhelmed at the outpouring of gratitude and understanding shown to us by our customers. The notes, cards, social media messages and even cookies for our crews shown in appreciation for what we were doing made us want to work even harder.

We cannot properly thank our customers for their understanding nor the friends and neighbors who answered our call for help. This spirit of neighbor helping neighbor, company helping company and states helping other states, reminded me of why I love working with this team and for a company that does what we do. I am thankful I was part of “Team Santee Cooper” that, with some help from our friends, worked to bring power back to the people of South Carolina.