Storms knock out power to thousands during heat wave

tbarton@islandpacket.com / astice@islandpacket.comJuly 2, 2012 

Many residents of Beaufort and Jasper counties awoke to temperatures in the 90s and no air conditioning Monday.

Overnight storms toppled trees and downed power lines across the Lowcountry, knocking out power to thousands and leaving an elderly Beaufort man without a home.

About 13,600 Palmetto Electric Cooperative and SCE&G customers lost power at the peak of storm at about 10 p.m. Sunday.

By 10 a.m. Monday, all Palmetto Electric customers in Beaufort County had their power restored, company spokesman James Baker said. About 85 customers in Jasper County were still without power as of 6 p.m.

As of 4 p.m., power had been restored to all but 27 SCE&G customers on Spring Island, according to the company's website. About 130 customers were without power in Jasper County.

"We've got crews out there right now working as hard as they can to get power back on," SCE&G spokeswoman Kim Asbill said Monday afternoon.

Area fire departments also were busy Sunday night, as fallen trees blocked roads and damaged vehicles and homes.

Robert Babin, 85, was in his living room when Sunday night's storm toppled a tree onto his home in Beaufort.

"I was watching TV when I heard a loud bang," said Babin, who got out unharmed through the front door. The Beaufort Fire Department and Carolina Lowcountry Chapter of the American Red Cross responded.

The large tree crushed the carport behind his home before slamming into his roof, "causing serious structural damage," Beaufort Fire Chief Sammy Negron said.

Babin is being put up in a hotel for three nights by the Red Cross. Workers will begin removing the tree today, Babin said.

"There's a lot of work to be done to fix the house, and I don't know when I'll be back in," he said.

A tree also fell onto a house on Chechessee Circle on Callawassie Island on Sunday night. No further information was available Monday from the Bluffton Township Fire Department.

Hilton Head Island firefighters removed the top of a tree that fell on a Chevrolet Suburban on Lighthouse Road in Sea Pines. Seven people were in the vehicle at the time. No one was injured, according to a town Fire & Rescue Division spokeswoman.

116 HEAT INDEX

Sunday's scattered power outages came on the hottest weekend of the year so far. The combination of high humidity and temperatures in the upper 90s resulted in a heat index of 116 degrees Sunday in Beaufort,according to the National Weather Service in Charleston.

There was some relief, however, as moisture was pushed out of the area to the south. As a result, temperatures will gradually cool to the low 90s by the weekend, according to meteorologist Douglas Berry with the weather service.

"Tuesday will be the hottest for the week with a heat index of 110, but gradually decrease through the week," Berry said. "We could see heat indices of 100 to 105 degrees each afternoon ... hovering around heat advisory levels," meaning heat-related illnesses are possible.

Oppressive heat and humidity led to record temperatures in Beaufort and Jasper counties last summer, putting the area in an extreme drought.

Temperatures in the region broke 90 degrees 56 straight days, the longest stretch on record, according to the weather service.

However, unlike Savannah, Beaufort County will not open cooling stations, where residents can go to cool down and seek shelter from the hot weather.

"With the cooler temperatures helping lower heat indexes, at this time, we do not anticipate doing that," said David Zeoli, county deputy director of emergency management.

Area hospitals are urging those who plan to be outside during these heat-filled days to take precautions to prevent heat stroke and exhaustion.

Coastal Carolina Hospital treated one person over the weekend with heat-related illness. Hilton Head Hospital treated four for dizziness and dehydration tied to the heat. None reported treating anyone for heat stroke.

Kevin Kremer, emergency room director at Beaufort Memorial Hospital, recommends people limit strenuous activities to the early morning or evening, wear lightweight and loose-fitting clothing when possible and drink at least eight ounces of water for every 15 minutes of exercise. Alcohol, caffeine and carbonated beverages, which can hasten dehydration, also should be avoided, Kremer said.

"Early signs of heat-related illness are excessive sweating, fatigue, dizziness, weakness and nausea," he said. "If you experience any of those, you should stop what you're doing, drink some water and head inside where it is cool.

"If you're not able to keep fluids down, have a temperature above 103, become confused, have hot, flush skin with no sweating -- that is a dangerous sign, and you should get to the ER right away."

Related content

  1. Summer sizzle: Potential record heat in forecast for Beaufort County: June 28, 2012
  2. Nation bakes as serious heat wave hits early, June 27, 2012
  3. The National Weather Service: Charleston
  4. Palmetto Electric Cooperative power outage/storm center
  5. SCE&G power outage map

allison

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