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Power Outage FAQs

Frequently Asked Questions about Power Outages

Wouldn't it be better if your lines were underground?
While underground lines are not outage proof, they are less susceptible to wind damage, which is always present in hurricane situations. Underground lines, however, may present restoration challenges when flooding is involved. It also takes a longer amount of time and specialized equipment to find problems with underground cable.

What preventive measures do you take to minimize outages?
Preventative maintenance is the best tool against outages. In addition to ensuring the lines, poles and transformers are in top-notch condition, the state's electric cooperatives employ an aggressive tree trimming and right-of-way clearing program. After a hurricane, downed trees and branches are usually the primary cause of outages. Keeping the power lines right of ways clear reduces the chances of tree-related outages.

How does wind affect an electric cooperative system?
Very rarely does wind alone affect an electric system. Our electric systems are built to easily withstand 65+ MPH winds. If you took an average electric system and put it out in the middle of a field, the winds would blow right by it and not affect the electric system. It's the trees and other things which are affected by the winds that bring down electric systems.

How is power restored and how are priorities set?
Our goal is to restore service to as many consumers as rapidly and safely as possible. As a rule of thumb, power is usually restored in this order: transmission circuits, substations, distribution lines and individual structures.

We give special consideration to public safety facilities such a hospitals, nursing homes, fire departments, emergency shelters, water and sewage systems, grocery stores and town halls.

Horry Electric maintains a list of members dependent on life support medical systems. Members on this special needs list are strongly encouraged to seek shelter in an emergency facility or travel inland to an area where storm damage is less likely to occur. There is no guarantee that electric service will not be interrupted in the event of a storm, so emergency plans should be made well in advance. Personal preparations are the full responsibility of the individual.

Are Horry Electric's employees directly involved in power restoration?
All of Horry Electric's full-time and part-time employees are involved, in one way or another, in the restoration process. The most visible are the linemen, who are the individuals trained in the construction and maintenance of power lines.

In addition, we have crews from sister cooperatives in South Carolina and all across the country who can come in and assist. Contract crews, our own and those who work with other cooperatives, are also called in to help with the restoration process.

Everyone goes on standby on high alert to provide assistance as quickly as possible after the storm. Being on alert and prepared enables us to instantly get to work once the high winds or inclement weather subsides.

After a storm, how quickly do you send crews out to begin restoration?
That's determined by the intensity of the storm. Crew safety is a major consideration. As soon as it's safe to restore power, power restoration begins. To facilitate the process, crews and supplies are staged close to the predicted storm damage so restoration can begin as soon as safely possible.

How can members help during an outage?
Once the power goes out, it's important to turn off every unneeded electrical item. Every item requiring electricity puts a strain on the system. The less initial electric demand on the system, generally the quicker power can be fully restored. If the initial demand is too great, the system will overload and the power will go off again. There are two exceptions. A light inside the house should be left on to signal when power has been restored and the porch light should switched on so cooperative line personnel can tell which homes have their electricity back.

Once power is restored, gradually turn on lights, air conditioners, heaters and other electrical appliances back on, say over a half an hour, to ease the demand on the system.

Will the electric cooperative shut off the power manually during the storm, or will the system shut itself down? What can we expect?
No, the cooperative doesn't plan to turn off power manually during a storm. However, the cooperative might re-set the mechanical process to shut itself down when weather conditions are unfavorable, particularly in high winds.

What are some safety precautions for members?

  • If you see a downed power line, STAY AWAY!! And call the cooperative immediately.
  • Leave your porch light on so line personnel will know when your power has been restored.
  • Turn off all unnecessary appliances to prevent further drain on the utility's electric systems.
  • Stay away from fallen power lines. Assume that any line is conducting electricity.
  • People should always stay away from downed or sagging power lines. All downed power lines should be treated as if they were energized and potentially deadly. If you see a downed line, stay away and call the cooperative or 911.
  • Generator safety: Under no circumstances, should gas-powered generators be use indoors or in attached garages. Burning charcoal grills and portable generators create carbon monoxide, so should only be used outdoors. You cannot see or smell carbon monoxide. Opening a window or using a fan does not help. Carbon monoxide poisoning symptoms include dizziness, fatigue, and nausea. Exposure to high levels of carbon monoxide can cause death.

If you use a portable generator to supply electricity during a power outage, be safe and know the facts. If generators are used improperly, they can kill you and the people who are restoring power to your building or home. Connecting a generator to the main electrical supply for your house requires the services of a qualified, licensed electrician. If you use a standby generator during a power outage, contact the cooperative.

What about all the things in my refrigerator/freezer?
With a freezer that's full, foods can stay frozen up to 72 hours. A half-full freezer can still keep food frozen up to 24 hours after the power goes out. Should the power stay off for several days, dry ice can preserve food in the freezer. If you have a picnic cooler, and time to make ice in your own refrigerator, fill the cooler before the storm hits. Try to resist the urge to look inside and check on the items in the refrigerator/freezer.

What about my bill if I have to relocate? Will I be charged a late fee?
We recognize that some areas may be damaged so much that normal household routines, including bill paying, could be disrupted for a period of time. If you have incurred significant damage to your home or business that forces you to relocate, please contact Horry Electric Cooperative regarding your account and address, and we will work with you to resolve billing and late fee issues.

The electrical service line from the pole to my house appears to be pulled away from the house. What should I do?
Horry Electric Cooperative will be inspecting service lines and will determine if an electrician is required to fix the damage or if Horry Electric can make repairs. Piping that houses wires attached to the side of your home or business is considered part of the house wiring and can only be worked on by a licensed electrician.

Why are my electric motors or machines running backward?
Turn off machinery immediately and call Horry Electric Cooperative. A technician will determine whether electric power phases are connected properly.

Will the co-op pay for food that spoils?
Horry Electric cannot guarantee continuity of service, so there is not a requirement that we pay for food that might spoil due to electric service interruptions. Food in a chest freezer will keep for 72 hours if you do not open the freezer frequently. You can also place heavy blankets on the freezer to slow defrost.

Will the co-op pay for damage to appliances, electronic equipment or other personal property damaged in a power loss or during power restoration?
Horry Electric Cooperative cannot guarantee continuity of service, so there is not a requirement that we pay for damage. Following a storm, it's possible that service restored in one spot could be temporarily impacted by work elsewhere, including an accident or emergency condition that requires us to temporarily turn power off at the request of police or fire. We encourage members to consider precautions, such as unplugging, turning off or limiting use of electronically sensitive and/or non-essential appliances.

What are the vulnerabilities of underground and overhead electric service?
Overhead lines are exposed to high winds and flying debris. Underground facilities can be subject to flooding. Repair and replacement time is about the same for equipment with similar functions. Repairs can take longer if an underground fault needs to be located and repaired.

How will Horry Electric restore streetlights, traffic signals, and security lights?
Traffic signals will be prioritized at the request of the city or county that owns or maintains them. City or county workers may need to repair or replace damaged traffic signals and streetlights they own before Horry Electric can re-energize lines that power them. Residential security lights will be repaired or replaced after all other restoration efforts have been completed.

Complete guide to power outages