Beaufort County Power Outage

Patrolman directing traffic while the lights are down.
Patrolman directing traffic while the lights are down.

Just after 7am this morning, a transformer at the Santee Cooper substation in Beaufort County blew out and knocked out power to all of Hilton Head Island and parts of Bluffton. When the lights first went out, traffic was a snarl on Highway 278 in Bluffton, but that didn't last long as police began to direct traffic.

"[Drivers have] been really great," reported Sally Farmer of the South Carolina Highway Patrol. "We ask them to slow down, they slow down, we want them to stop, they stop. It's been good."

At one of the busiest intersections on Hilton Head Island--Matthews Drive and Business 278--the power did come back on after a little while, but it did stay off everywhere else. Mall employee Ernest Brown told us he'd driven in from Bluffton, but couldn't get to work on Hilton Head because there was no power. "It's almost kind of scary," he said.

While police braved the heat directing traffic, tourists were left to their own devices trying to find things to do. "You have the beach, you have your swimming pools," said Linda Lucci from Pennsylvania. "It's a place that it doesn't really matter what you have, it's just so beautiful."

Power did come back on for a while, then at 1:30pm, the same spot that had the original problem, failed again. "It locked out for what reason we don't know at this time, we're investigating," said Palmetto Electric's Tom Upshaw. He added that all of the safeguards that should have worked in the Northeast last week did work here. "I think the system operated. That failure could have fed back through the rest of the Palmetto Electric system.

As of 3:08pm, eight hours and one minute after the original failure, power was back on in Beaufort County.

Reported by: Chris Cowperthwaite,