February 15, 2014 9:49:25 PM
Nathan Gregory - firstname.lastname@example.org
The winter weather experienced across the Golden Triangle last week paled in comparison to a devastating ice storm that crippled several East Coast states.
At one point, 1.2 million utility customers from the South to the Northeast were without power and the storm has been blamed for five deaths.
Shortly after 4-County Electric Power officials ensured all of its own customers had their lights on, they began planning to assist crews in South Carolina that were trying desperately to do the same after the winter blast, the aftermath of which Gov. Nikki Haley compared to that of Hurricane Hugo.
A 15-man crew from the Golden Triangle hit the road for Walterboro, S.C., to assist Coastal Electric Cooperative, which serves more than 10,000 residential units in Bamberg, Colleton and Dorchester counties. About 80 percent of their customer base went dark as a result of downed power lines Friday morning, the cooperative estimated.
4-County spokesman Brad Barr said Coastal Electric Cooperative will fund all travel, labor and equipment costs for the local linemen to assist in restoring services to the areas affected. It is not known exactly how long they will be there, he said.
"That's something electric co-ops do. They help each other out in times like this," Barr said. "We had these guys that came here from that area and helped out during (Hurricane) Katrina. It's a reciprocal agreement at times of need that states work out with each other."
One of the 15 sent by 4-County this week is construction foreman Rob Giles, who said many ice-encased tree limbs collapsed due to the weight and fell into power lines.
"All of the ice has melted at this point," Giles said in a press release. "We're just putting the lines back up in the aftermath of this winter storm. They need some help."
4-County Chief Executive Officer Joe Cade said in a press release that the utility provider was happy to assist fellow crews in bringing relief to their customers.
"It's always a challenge to restore power after ice storms and the mutual aid we're giving Coastal Electric Cooperative and others will be paid back when we need help," Cade said.
Barr said the 14 joining Giles were: Jaron Andrews, Byron Benson, Chris Benson, Jonathan Edwards, Kyle Elam, Brian Gluesenkamp, Chance Ingram, Robert McReynolds, Justin Murphy, Wyatt Pumphrey, Tommy Reed, Johnathan Tuggle, Justin White and Eric Yarbrough.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.
Nathan Gregory covers city and county government for The Dispatch.