Over 60,000 people impacted by power outage in Lowcountry after equipment failure causes fire at substation

Published: Mar. 29, 2023 at 3:52 PM EDT
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BEAUFORT COUNTY, Sc. (WTOC) - An equipment failure that caused a fire at a Bluffton power substation Wednesday morning, leaving more than 60,000 people without electricity.

A variety of reactions in the Lowcountry, as some people had it worse than others. One mom who said it started her day on a bad note as she tried to take care of her two children, whereas others say they simply slept through it.

“Things were beeping in my house. My microwave was going nuts,” said Pat.

The fire started around 5 a.m.

“For me, for a lot of people that’s a good time, when you’re in bed and don’t think too much about it,” said Bill.

Hours later crews still scrambling to get power back for the near 63,000 people without it... an outage as big as the one from Hurricane Matthew.

“Get up get going, of course I haven’t had a shave yet or shower this morning but a lot of folks - our members - the same way,” said Tray Hunter, the VP of marketing for Palmetto Electric Cooperative.

Tray Hunter works for Palmetto Electric and he says waking up without power is especially rough when you know it’s on your crew to go get it fixed.

“We approached it like we do any outage... we throw every resource we can at it to get it on as soon as possible.”

He said the co-op sent more than 20 people into the field and brought around the same number to the office, but couldn’t do much until the flames at the power site were put out by the Bluffton fire department.

“They were able to take down the electrical and give us the safe call. Our firefighters came in and were able to extinguish it after that,” said Stephen Combs with the Bluffton Fire Department.

Power was brought back before 10 a.m. for almost everyone, but crews still continued checking on the equipment from the sky and ground late into this afternoon.

While the Bluffton Fire Department has confirmed the cause of this fire was equipment failure, we’re waiting to hear back from Santee Cooper, the company who operates this substation, for specifics on how that happened.