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Special equipment takes linemen to the damage

In the woods of Colleton County, lineworkers position the auger of a flexible-track mounted vehicle to drill a power pole hole on Oct. 11. 
Photo by Van O'Cain

In the woods on the edge of a rural Colleton County corn field, repair crews are using a 30-ton vehicle, moving on flexible track rather than wheels, to roll into hurricane-damaged areas where regular utility bucket trucks cannot go.

The ground is saturated with rain from Hurricane Matthew, so the track-mounted machine works multiple jobs—towing wheeled bucket trucks into the woods and drilling holes for power poles and smaller guy-wire anchors. It carries its own bucket for raising lineworkers up to power line height.

“This is where I really earn my money,” Coastal Electric Cooperative lineworker Kevin Wilds said with a wry smile. He wields a shovel in the soggy dirt to fill in around a new pole.

“Seriously, the process slows down a lot when we get in areas like this, but we’re going pretty good,” Wilds said.

Lawrence Hinz, Wilds’ boss and Coastal’s CEO, worries that consumers will run out of patience as the cooperative nears the end of its third day of repairs.

“The men are working 14 to 16 hours a day. They eat supper at 10 p.m. I hope consumers understand that we are working as hard, fast and safely as we can,” Hinz said.

At 5 p.m. Tuesday, electric cooperatives were reporting 106,000 outages across service territories from one end of the state’s coast to the other and inland to the greater Florence area.

“Ice, wind, ice-and-wind, rain, rain-and-wind—they’re all different in the way they affect restoration,” said Hinz. “A two-fer like the hurricane-force wind plus rain that we got is tougher the deeper you go into remote areas.

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Real-time outage information—by county or by electric cooperative—is available at www.ecsc.org.

Twenty independent, member-owned electric cooperatives build and maintain the state's largest power-distribution system. More than 74,000 miles of co-op power lines cover 70 percent of the state — more than all the other utilities in S.C. combined.

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