Share Your Hugo Memories

Twenty years ago on Sept. 21, 1989 Hurricane Hugo came ashore near Charleston and left destruction behind. Many of you were part of the SCANA family then and helped to restore power to more than 300,000 electric customers in S.C. In fact, no one in the state of S.C. east of 1-95 had power. In 18 days, more than 2,000 employees and 7,000 contractors and workers from other utilities had power restored, safely. It was a defining moment in our company’s history, and we’d like to hear your stories.

Share your Hugo memories by sending an e-mail to ccommunications@scana.com or read other stories below.

Kenneth T HorresAiken Distribution
38 years

Our employees did a great job during a trying time and so did our families. The day after Hugo passed I was assigned to Summerville and Columbia. My wife, daughter, son-in-law (Mike Key, Aiken gas) and granddaughter gather supplies, loaded the car up and headed to Charleston to help those in need. They were able to get there and provide supplies.

While working in Summerville we saw some amazing things. People fed us even though they had no power and no running water yet. They grilled meals for the line men.

Others helped provide those in need in the Charleston area after my wife and family returned – Mr. and Mrs. Yates from Level Baptist church delivered supplies and Benny Ray Black drove a tractor trailer full of supplies to the low country.

For anyone who has never seen it, destruction like that is hard to believe. People helping people is what it is all about.

Erna Cozart24 years
Customer Service

After receiving the urgent information from our company, I was finally able to convince my family that this was serious. My husband boarded up our windows with plywood and we left our double-wide and went to my father’s brick home to ride out the storm. There were five of us including my four year old son and my sister.

The next morning we went outside, saw all the trees down and my father said he felt as if he were in another world. My father and my husband had to use a chain saw to cut the trees out of the driveway aso that I could get to work. We saw national guardsmen cutting and clearing trees on I-26. My shift was from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Imagine no traffic lights, just four way stops (each one lets one go). We had water in cans and three liter bottles from beverage companies and had to go all over seeking ice. It was surreal and prayerfully we won’t have another such experience.

We communicated with our customers to the best of our abilities and with the best and latest information available to us. Thanks be to our families, our company, other companies and all who helped with the timely restoration of service.

June ThomasExecutive Secretary to Patricia T. Smith

When all the talk started about Hugo I thought I knew what to expect. Hazel hit South Carolina when I was in high school and I remembered the fallen trees and TV antennas on the ground (yes, no cable tv). Several of my friends at USC were from Myrtle Beach so I had lots of stories on hurricanes.

The night before Hugo hit, I went home to move all the patio furniture from our deck and tape the windows. My husband was attending a meeting in Greenville so I was home alone. I finally went to bed only to be awakened by the loudest wind I had ever heard. I went upstairs and the wind had blown open french doors to an upstairs deck and the wind and rain were pouring in. I secured the doors with a sofa and heavy books and went back downstairs to wait for what else might happen. It was not long before our electricity went out and with living on the lake, so did our water. I think this was the longest night I ever spent.

The next morning, I was dressed and ready when my husband who had heard the news that Columbia was indeed hit, drove around fallen trees and branches to get to our house. My first words were, "I have got to get to work". Ed drove me downtown where I learned the devastation that had hit our beautiful state made the little problems at my home seem simple. My position at this time was secretary to Pat Smith. One of the departments under Pat was purchasing so I had a real understanding of what our Company had to do. As days went by, many of my friends went to Charleston to work and I received word they had plenty to eat, but missed home cooked food. My family and friends kid me about my "Magic Freezer" which was working as we had our power restored. I told Pat I would empty it of breads and cookies. She asked me to ride to Charleston with her to take the goodies to our employees. When we went over the bridge into Charleston, I was not prepared for the scene in front of me - boats stacked on top of boats three stories high and everything in ruins. I wondered, can this ever be fixed?

When we got back to Columbia, I volunteered for storm duty, after my normal hours, to answer phone calls from customers. This gave me a new appreciation of the work these people do!

Looking back at this time, I have trouble finding the words to express how proud I was to be part of the "Team" that helped restore our state. I know many times our hard work is not appreciated but each employee I came in contact with handled their job with pride and commitment to our customers. Even though I retired in 1994, I still take pride in my Company and am grateful for the job they do.

Harry L. Wolfe, retired in June 1995 with 32 years in the Production Dpt.

Along with many retires and current employees, my memories of Hugo will never be forgotten. I was manager of Wateree Station that memorable night. When it was determined that Charleston was the bull’s eye, and we were also a likely target, I made the decision to let everyone other than operations personnel go home. As Hugo made landfall and started his march inland, we had no problem tracking his progress. Transmission lines and circuits started tripping and we started cutting load on our units. We stayed online as long as possible, but with the lines down and circuits tripped, both units were taken off and the boilers were "bottled up." We held on and watched doors and windows being blow in. From around midnight until mid-afternoon we had no communication with anyone outside of the plant. This was the most terrifying part of the hurricane. The operators and I had no knowledge of how our families and fellow employees had been affected. This was before cell phones, and the only communication that we normally had were land lines and microwave. All phone lines were down and our microwave antennas were all but torn off the stack. This experience made me so very thankful for the employees that we had. Not only the ones that weathered the storm with me, for they performed their duties flawlessly under unbelievable conditions, but also the ones that had gone home who brought their chainsaws and actually cut their way to the plant because of downed trees blocking both US 601 and SC 48.The gratitude that I had for them then, and still have, cannot be measured. When the roads were finally cleared Mr. W. E. Moore made it to the plant with a mobile phone, that we greatly appreciated, and some of us were able to get through to our families.

Cal McMeekin

I have vivid memories of Hugo. At the time I was Vice President for the Northern Division, with responsibilities for the electric distribution system in the Northern portion of our service territory.

On the night Hugo hit, Jon Slocum, who is still active at the company, and I were in the Northern Division storm center. We realized the potential devastation of Hugo, and were calling neighboring utilities to see if they would release their electric line contractors to us. If you recall, the storm passed between Columbia and Sumter, and moved north causing severe damage in Charlotte. At the time, no one had any idea that Charlotte would be impacted.

Without knowing the extent of the damage that was to occur to our system, we took the risk, and requested all of Duke's contractors that were available, ahead of the storm. By morning they were on their way to Columbia, before the storm hit Charlotte, and, by having the extra work force, we were able to restore power in the Northern Division within a week.

Following the restoration efforts in the Columbia/Northern Division area, we were sent to Charleston to assist. We were assigned Folly Beach, Sullivan's Island, Isle of Palms, and McClellenville, all of which were devastated.

Under the leadership of Bob Livingston, who at the time was manager of electric operations in Columbia, we spent the next two weeks in the Charleston area. Bob provided outstanding leadership and ingenuity in coordinating with other governmental agencies to assist us. The U.S. Army set up landing barges at the Ben Sawyer Bridge, which was knocked out. Bob arranged for them to transport our crews, line trucks and other equipment to Sullivan's Island, which also gave us access to Isle of Palms. Our crews were the first people on the islands other than the military, and we had power available before most property owners returned to the island.

Following restoration at Sullivan's Island and Isle of Palms, Bob set up a command post in McClellanville. Here again, he displayed outstanding leadership. Because all of the surrounding vacant land had been covered by the storm surge, and was a mud bog, Bob arranged with the S.C. Highway Patrol to close the North bound lane of US 17 in McClellenville. This allowed us to park our city bus, which had been converted into an operations headquarters, our line trucks and equipment on the highway, which gave us a dry, secure location from which to operate and sped the restoration efforts.

Footnote: Bob later left the Company, and became owner of Gregory Electric Company in Columbia. He also continued his service in the South Carolina Army National Guard, rising to General, and Commander of the South Carolina Guard troops in Afghanistan a couple of years ago.

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