South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley and utility officials compared the damage in Aiken County from last week’s ice storm to that caused by Hurricane Hugo nearly 25 years ago.
Haley arrived by plane at Aiken Municipal Airport on Friday morning to observe debris and downed power lines after the winter storm dropped more than an inch of ice in the county through Thursday morning.
Haley said the fallout from the precipitation was also worse than the ice storm of 2004, when about 200,000 state residents lost power.
“I knew this was going to be worse than 2004,” she told members of the media and local residents who had gathered in front of Aiken’s downtown administration and finance building after her tour. “I didn’t know this was going to be in the same realm as Hugo. This is really devastating. To look at these neighborhoods and to see trees on houses and to see all of the devastation that has happened to this community is terrible.”
There were as many as 350,000 power outages across the state from the storm.
Keller Kissam, South Carolina Electric and Gas Co.’s retail operations president, said the storm was as damaging to the company’s infrastructure as Hurricane Hugo.
More than 500 out-of-state SCE&G workers had been positioned mostly in Aiken and Edgefield counties to work on restoring power, said Kissam. He said all homes should have power by this week.
“Some could be sooner, and we certainly hope that,” he said. “But right now, there are a little less than 40,000 people out within this area, and it’s going to take some time.”
Aiken Electric Cooperative also brought in out-of-state contractors to assist in power restoration efforts, said CEO Gary Stooksbury.
The company, like SCE&G, faced difficulties with repaired lines falling back down as tree limbs and ice fell to the ground.
Two workers with SCE&G were injured by falling debris, Kissam said.
Haley was escorted in an SUV from the Aiken airport through parts of the county until reaching downtown Aiken. There, she met with local officials and utility workers before holding a news conference outside.
“The landscape of this community has been completely damaged from this storm,” she said.
On Feb. 12, the governor received federal declaration of emergency approval from President Obama. She said the Friday visits would help determine whether further assistance is needed from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.