Duke Energy: Sumter among most impacted counties from winter storm; some power outages likely "multi-day"


As power outages and cold rain continue to impact the Midlands during Sunday’s winter storm that is dumping snow on much of the Southeast, electric company crews are standing by to begin power restoration work.

Duke Energy said 11,000 response workers are staged and ready to begin what the company expects to be multi-day power outage repairs “as soon as weather conditions safely permit.”

The storm is expected to continue Sunday into early Monday.

As of 1 p.m., there were 2,713 Duke Energy outages impacting 105,251 customers, including 52 in Clarendon County, 1,239 in Lee County and 1,330 in Sumter County.

There were also 43,413 meters without power across the state’s electric cooperatives, including 1,266 in Lee County and 422 in Sumter County from Black River Electric Cooperative, as of 1 p.m.

South Carolina’s hardest hit counties, according to Duke outages, so far include Sumter, Kershaw, Florence, Spartanburg, Anderson, Darlington, Greenville, Greenwood, Oconee and Pickens.

Jason Hollifield, Duke Energy Carolinas storm director, said in a news release some could be without power for multiple days “given the expected widespread damage to our electric distribution system across both states.”

Customers can report power outages by texting “OUT” to 57801 and find the most up to date information on the company’s outage map.

Duke Energy will provide estimated power restoration times to impacted customers as soon as the company can accurately determine those estimated times, which likely will be Monday.

What is causing power outages?

Ice buildup on trees and branches that causes them to fall on power lines is usually the main culprit behind power outages during a winter storm. Specifically, ice buildup of a quarter-inch or more is often the threshold amount that causes trees and branches to topple.

The heavy weight of significant ice buildup directly on power lines themselves can sometimes cause the lines to fall or sag, as well. Heavy, wet snow of six inches or more also can cause trees and branches to fall on power lines.

How to protect refrigerated food during power outages

For customers who lose power and have full refrigerators and freezers, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommends the following:

  • Keep refrigerator and freezer doors closed as much as possible to maintain the cold temperature.
  • A refrigerator can keep food cold for about four hours if it is unopened. If the power will be out for more than four hours, use coolers to keep refrigerated food cold.
  • A full freezer will keep the temperature for approximately 48 hours (24 hours if it is half full) if the door remains closed.

Avoid customer scams

Customers should be alert to scammers who might call them – impersonating electric company representatives and threatening to cut off customers’ power before or during the storm unless customers make an immediate payment for late bills or other charges.

Area electric companies never makes such calls.

Below are tips for customers to avoid such scams:

  • If it’s a recorded voice, often referred to as a “robocall,” be extra cautious.
  • Do not provide any personal information.
  • Duke Energy’s actual recorded calls to customers are informative only. The company’s calls never threaten to cut off power and never request personal information.
  • If a caller – recorded or live – specifically asks you to pay using a prepaid debit card, that’s a red flag. Prepaid debit cards are like cash and the transactions cannot be reversed.
  • If the caller pressures you to make an immediate payment of any type – or provide personal information of any kind, such as a bank account number or social security number – hang up the phone.