Columbia, SC (WLTX) - Some of South Carolina's electric co-ops are reporting historic levels of damage from this week's winter storm.
Related Coverage:Winter Storm is Over, But Mess Remains
Calling the damage to five co-ops "significant" and "crippling," leaders of the utilitiessay more than 50 percent of their customers lost power.
"Some of our co-ops have never seen damage on this scale before," said Todd Carter, the Vice-President of Loss Control and Training for the Electric Cooperatives of South Carolina.
Late Thursday, thecooperatives reported 144,000 customers statewide without power.
"The amount of damage we have here is equal to Hurricane Hugo," said Edisto Electric Cooperative CEO David Felkel. That company saw 80 percent of their customers lose electricity.
For many of the companies, the chief problem has been the ice buildup knocking trees on to power poles and dragging down lines. The National Weather Services say Barnwell County, one of the hardest hit regions, received 1.25 inches of ice. For perspective, the ice storm of 2004, which caused nearly 175,000 power outages in the Midlands, dumped about a half inch of ice in some areas.
Statewide, the South Carolina Emergency Management Division reported 329,000 outages early Thursday afternoon.
The co-ops weren't the onlyenergy providersthat had problems. Duke/Progress Energy had almost 20,000 outages at one point in Sumter County alone, representing two-thirds of their customers there. And in Aiken County, some 49,000 SCE&G customers lost their electricity.