Dominion Energy South Carolina crew members from the Mount Pleasant operations center work to ensure the safe transport of equipment and a 40-foot, Class 4 wooden pole as they prepare to launch from a nearby marina on Isle of Palms, S.C.

Dominion Energy Crew Restores Power to Barrier Islands Along SC Coast Without Line Trucks

Feb. 1, 2023
Dominion Energy storm restoration crews faced a major challenge restoring power to some of its island customers, accessible only by boat.
Dominion Energy South Carolina line crews are prepared and ready to respond when severe weather strikes. However, with portions of our service territory inaccessible by truck, restoring power to South Carolina’s remote barrier islands following a hurricane can present a unique set of challenges.

When Hurricane Ian came ashore last year on Sept. 30 as a Category 1 storm, approximately 110,000 of our customers lost power. Dominion Energy quickly deployed an additional 700 crew members and contract resources from Virginia, as well as contract line workers from South Carolina, Tennessee and Maryland, to assist the approximately 2,000 South Carolina-based team members already working the storm.

Year-round preparation and investments in our infrastructure, including a proactive vegetation management program designed to safeguard lines from hazardous trees and limbs, helped crews efficiently restore power to most customers within 24 hours.

But there was still work to be done. Helicopter patrols identified a unique restoration challenge across several of the low country’s remote barrier islands, home to approximately 80 Dominion Energy customers. Sean Garvin, a journeyman lineman from Mount Pleasant, S.C., had a bird’s-eye view during the aerial assessment.

“From that vantage point, when our lines are surrounded by water, having contract resources standing by was important,” Garvin said. “It helped us really understand the scope of the work, the damage, and the equipment needed to turn these customers back on.”

Salt marshes and the Atlantic Intercoastal Waterway separate the sparsely developed islands from the mainland. They are accessible only by a 25-minute boat ride from nearby Isle of Palms, S.C.

A five-man crew arrived on Dewees Island the following morning and worked quickly to restore power to the small community that same day. The 1,200-acre island is serviced from a neighboring substation via a 23 kV line supported by overhead river structures as well as underground primary cable.

But for neighboring Capers Island and Bull Island, a broken 40-foot Class 4 pole surrounded by water just off the tip of Dewees left six customers in the dark. The team — which included crew members ranging in experience from two months to nearly two decades engineered a solution to manually relocate the pole on land.
After reviewing the watercraft’s specifications for safe transport of the necessary equipment, the crew would return the next day with hard hats and handlines, climbing bags and copper wire. An all-terrain vehicle also made the journey.

With supporting resources from the Dewees community, including a locally owned backhoe, the crew worked tirelessly to set a new 40-foot pole. They rigged the structure with slacks, strap jacks, grips and handlines to put new conductor back in the air.

Climbing skills acquired during Dominion Energy apprentice lineman training were integral in meeting the additional challenge of sagging the wire on both sides of the pole simultaneously.  Because the line was connected to a nearby 120-foot pole, the challenge was even more difficult.   They also replaced polymer bells, three guy wires and fiberglass cross arms. 

Less than 72 hours after the storm’s approach, the repairs were complete.   

“It doesn’t matter if it’s one customer or 100,000 customers, our commitment remains the same,” said Chuck Howard, supervisor of electric distribution operations and construction. “We have a highly skilled, dedicated and enterprising team who put their training and experience to work for our customers when they needed us the most.”

Jim Swittenberg is the local manager for Electric Distribution Operations and Construction in Mount Pleasant for Dominion Energy South Carolina (DESC). Jim has been with the company for nearly 40 years, starting as a student assistant in Fossil/Hydro Power Generation before moving to customer service engineering.  Jim has held a variety of positions in electric distribution over the years including distribution engineer and local manager.  He has worked as manager of construction and operations in the Charleston district since 1999.

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