WILLISTON, S.C. —
Dollar General stores across the region let people shop by flashlight, but were only taking cash because they had no way of scanning credit cards. Intersections became risky games of chicken because traffic lights were out and deputies were elsewhere trying to help clear trees and limbs off roads and checking on older people and the sick.
Losing power in a rural area often means losing water, too. Many residents are on wells with pumps that need electricity to operate. Some people had buckets out to catch the melting ice so they could use the water to flush their toilets.
Tedda and Stan Howard were ready to wait a long time to get their power back from Aiken Electric Cooperative. During the day, they cut down broken branches and repaired fences so their goats wouldn't escape from their 56 acres near Williston. At night, they huddle around the propane heater and played chess by candlelight. They had a neighbor who had power and offered them a warm shower.
"That ought to be enough. Hopefully they'll have it back on by the weekend," Tedda Howard said.
That seemed doubtful. Power lines were sagging to the ground or snapped in more than a dozen places on the two-lane highway by their home.
One coastal South Carolina electric cooperative lost 50 poles in the ice storm, compared to 21 in the last hurricane, officials said.
"With a hurricane, the storm blows through, does its damage and it's gone. An ice storm is like a hurricane followed by a series of mini-hurricanes. You restore power to an area, but then the ice comes back and the same area goes down again," said Bob Paulling, CEO of Mid-Carolina Electric Cooperative in Lexington.
Rural areas were hit the hardest and their geography means it will be much more difficult to get power restored, said Mark Quinn, spokesman for the South Carolina co-ops. In urban areas, one fix of a power line often turns electric back on for thousands of customers.