September 22, 1989, is a day that lives in infamy among the many Santee Cooper retirees and employees who have worked here long enough to remember it. Early that morning, Hurricane Hugo came ashore at the Isle of Palms in South Carolina and brought down our entire power delivery system for the first time since we produced our first kilowatt in February 1942. Employees and retirees remember the sheer devastation Hugo brought to their neighborhoods and to Santee Cooper facilities, but they also remember the long hours and tireless work it took to restore power to the far reaches of our battered state.
We’ve had our fair share of hurricanes roll through in the 23 years since Hugo struck, but nothing has come close to that Category 4 behemoth. This is good news, of course, but it also keeps folks who remember Hugo slightly on edge as they wait for its successor to place the South Carolina coast in its crosshairs.
Could the 2012 Atlantic Hurricane Season bring an end to our good fortune? We’ve already seen Alberto and Beryl preempt the official June 1 beginning. Is this what we can expect for the next six months?
Forecasters are calling for a quote-unquote normal hurricane season with a 70 percent chance of producing between four and eight hurricanes — one to three of them becoming major. Regardless of these forecasts, Santee Cooper approaches each hurricane season with the mindset to be prepared for whatever the Atlantic brings. Every department has an emergency plan that is reviewed and discussed before June 1 to ensure each employee knows what their duties are in the event of a major storm event. We are ready come what may.
We strongly encourage you to be ready as well. If you wait until a named storm is bearing down on the Palmetto State, you could be putting yourself and your loved ones at risk. Prepare an emergency kit of nonperishable foods/canned goods, water, flashlights, batteries, a radio, prescriptions, personal hygiene items, emergency contact information, cash, candles, and other essential items.
You should plan as though you might not have electricity for a couple of days or might be evacuated at a moment’s notice. Familiarize yourself with South Carolina’s emergency procedures. This year’s hurricane plan includes new evacuation zones and new procedures. Give some thought to where you might go if you are evacuated. Do not leave anything to chance.
Visit our Storm Center, and follow us on Twitter and Facebook to receive updates on our power-restoration efforts and other crucial information. Additional storm resources and information can also be found on our website. The South Carolina Emergency Management Division also has a wealth of essential planning materials.
Hurricane Hugo has been described as Santee Cooper’s darkest day — literally. But the efforts of our employees in its aftermath have been called our finest hour. Expect nothing less from us when the next storm strikes. We’ll be ready, and we want you to be ready.