Many people’s most vivid memories of major storms from Hugo to Matthew are sitting in the dark and waiting for the lights to come back on. But while the rest of us are waiting, others are heading out to fix it. 

Orangeburg’s city-owned Department of Public Utilities is responsible for restoring and monitoring power during and after large storms and outage events.  

DPU said customer comfort and safety are top priorities in the aftermath of a storm. 

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“Restoring power after a major outage is an enormous task that involves much more than simply throwing a switch or removing a tree from a power line,” DPU said in a statement. “It requires the coordination of sometimes hundreds of staff members, system evaluation and planning, and the logistical obstacles that are a result of the event. 

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“The main goal is to restore power safely to the greatest number of customers in the shortest time possible.”

DPU stressed the importance of not touching any downed power lines after a storm, as these may still carry a fatal charge.

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“Customers should consider any line down to be energized and as such should avoid these lines completely,” DPU said. “NEVER attempt to move, lift, reconnect or otherwise touch a downed power line. Consequences of these actions could prove deadly.”

It is “nearly impossible” to reach DPU by phone during a large-scale outage due to high call volume. Customers’ meters will alert DPU of the outage. Reports of outages and other issues can be made online at

DPU said it is impossible to predict how long it will take to restore power early on during an outage. The utility asks customers not to ask for estimates on when power will be restored, as it puts staff “in a very uncomfortable position.”

DPU will work to restore power by first inspecting and repairing the large transmission towers and lines. 

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“These lines seldom fail, but they can be damaged by a hurricane, tornado or severe ice storm,” DPU said. “Tens of thousands of people can be served by one high-voltage transmission line. Therefore, if there is damage, it will be the first to receive attention from DPU’s electricity supplier.”

Workers will then move down to local substations. In most cases of major outages, these will be checked first, as they are more likely to fail or be damaged by a storm than the large transmission lines.

“If the outage can be corrected at the substation level, power may be restored to a large number of people,” DPU said.

Workers will then move on to local distribution lines, which take power from substations and transformers to neighborhoods and buildings. These repairs will be made in order of which sites will restore power to the most people at one time. has a new special: $1 for 26 weeks

Any damage to components attached to the home or business will have to be repaired by an electrician hired by the customer before DPU can restore power.

“Sometimes, damage will occur on the service line between a home or business and the transformer that is on a nearby utility pole,” DPU said. “This can explain why a residence has no power when an adjacent residence does have power.”

“The DPU will need to know this information so a service team can be dispatched to repair the service line.”

Sister utilities will be brought in to help during a large-scale outage. These groups will always be accompanied by a DPU employee.

“Unfortunately, during these emergencies there are individuals who attempt to take advantage and misrepresent themselves for personal gain,” DPU said. “Anyone who claims to be with the DPU will have proper identification, be in a DPU vehicle and wearing DPU apparel.”

Caleb Bozard is a news intern at The Times and Democrat through the sponsorship of the South Carolina Press Association Foundation. He is a student at the University of South Carolina in Columbia.

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