Electric companies are still cleaning up and restoring power after the ice storm passed through, but some companies are closer to full restoration than others.
Georgia Power spokeswoman Carol Boatright said that more than 200,000 customers in the east region experienced an outage lasting more than 5 seconds and that on Monday only a handful of customers were still left in the dark.
Jefferson Energy Cooperative and SCE&G are still seeing outages in the thousands.
“This is the worst damage our system has ever endured,” said Steve Chalker, spokesman for Jefferson Energy.
The electric company had 28,000 of its 33,000 customers without power at one point. The number has dwindled to about 4,000. Chalker said that time estimates for restoration are difficult but that there are more than 500 people in the field working around the clock to restore electricity as soon as possible.
“We realize patience is running thin,” he said.
SCE&G spokeswoman Emily Brody said about 4,600 Aiken County customers were still without power Monday afternoon, but the company estimated it could have 90 to 95 percent of those customers’ electricity restored by 11 p.m. Monday.
In his 21 years in the business, Chalker said, he has never seen anything like last week’s ice storm.
“We felt confident that we were going to have a lot of damage... but not to the magnitude that it did,” he said.
Like many power companies, Georgia Power called in for reinforcements in anticipation of the storm, but then it had to call for more after the storm struck. Boatright said several thousand crews from eight states as far away as Ohio came to help.
With a forever-growing list of outages, Boatright said, crews concentrated first on areas that provide service, such as shelters, hospitals and police stations, before moving to areas that can restore the largest number of customers next. Customers who are more remote or are suffering from damages that affected only a small pool of people were some of the last to be restored.
Georgia Power crews got to their trucks about 6 each morning and didn’t rest until about 8 p.m. Some crew members worked overnight to tackle larger outages and create restoration packages to hand to morning crews.
One thing crews have been grateful for is the kindness of the community. Chalker said although some customers have expressed their outrage, there have been lots of expressions of thanks, too.
Crews have been offered doughnuts and refreshments as they work on lines in front of people’s homes. Chalker said one person contacted the company wanting to buy gift cards for the crew that restored his family’s power.
A local Facebook page, It’s Electrifying Thank You from the CSRA, was created with the aim of thanking the men and women working to restore power. In two days, the page had amassed more than 3,000 likes. Local residents posted thanks and stories of the people who gave them heat and light again.
Posts detailed how customers at one restaurant gave the linemen a standing ovation, and an Alabama electrical employee wrote about how people gave her co-workers food and bought them meals to show thanks.
Richmond County emergency management said the cleanup in far from over. Disaster preparedness coordinator Mie Lucas said crews are still assessing the “widespread” damage.
“It’s been a long week, and it will continue to be a long week until we get all this cleaned up,” Lucas said.
Columbia County departments will be assessing damage with GEMA, FEMA and Small Business Administration representatives Tuesday.
Emergency management and local police agencies were working Monday to get totals for the amount of overtime hours put in during the cleanup efforts. Lucas said a record of overtime hours is required to apply for grants.