SUMMERVILLE - Sixty-year-old Ronald Huff spent the night with his wife Helen, wrapped up in blankets with their two small dogs. Outside their Knightsville home the shredded trees had dropped the power line almost to their driveway.
The Huffs were among tens of thousands in the Lowcountry on Wednesday night who huddled for warmth, fled to acquaintances, motels or shelters as power failed. Thursday, many of them still waited for the heat to come back on. For at least one, it was too late.
A 25-year-old Berkeley County man died trying to keep warm with a charcoal grill in a bedroom, probably died of carbon monoxide poisoning early Thursday morning, Coroner Bill Salisbury said. His wife called for help and was taken to the hopsital. The man was identified as Audiel Lopez-Marroquin of College Park Road.
Utility officials did not say on Thursday when power would be restored for most customers.
"That's the question of the day. I can't tell you with any certainty," said South Carolina Electric & Gas spokesman Eric Boomhower.
As of 4 p.m., there were 99,455 SCE&G outages reported, including 13,525 in Dorchester County, the second hardest-hit area in the state after Aiken County.
Repairs are done first at substations and then transmission and distribution lines before power is restored to homes and businesses, he said.
Residential customers may need to hire an electrician for repairs to their home "weatherhead" before SCE&G can re-connect them, he said.
"There are so many variables involved," he said.
People should report outages online so they will be logged into the repair network, he said.
Santee Cooper reported 7,405 customers without power as of about 5 p.m. Thursday.
"It's a lot of slow going, especially back in the neighborhoods. I can understand that it's frustrating," said spokeswoman Mollie Gore.
The state's 20 electric cooperatives reported 144,000 without power on Thursday.
"This will likely be a multi-day event. Some members may be without power until the weekend," said spokesman Mark Quinn.
Dorchester County Districts 2 and 4 announced that schools are closed for Friday.
Conditions on the Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge are improving, but not enough to open the bridge to pedestrian or vehicle traffic, authorities said shortly after noon in a news release.
The most recent assessment by Mount Pleasant Police, Charleston Police and the S.C. Department of Transportation indicates conditions are improving but still remain dangerous for vehicle and pedestrian traffic, the release said.
Officials said they will continue to monitor the bridge, which has been closed since early Wednesday. All of the state's bridges except the Ravenel remain open.
Mount Pleasant Town Councilman Chris Nickels said the bridge would likely stay closed until Friday morning.
More than 50 crews from out of state are helping restore power, he said.
Some of the highest totals of ice accumulation from the storm occurred in northern Dorchester and Berkeley counties, according to the Charleston station of the National Weather Service. Only Aiken County took a harder hit, state authorities said.
"It seems there was a drastic line that extended across Berkeley and Dorchester counties where colder temperatures last longer and more precipitation fell," said meteorolgist Julie Packett, with the weather service.
Fire-rescue officials measured about an inch of ice on surfaces in Cross. Other communities near Moncks Corner found about three-quarters of an inch.
Areas near Summerville reported between a half inch and three-quarters of an inch of ice accumulation.
Ice buildup in Charleston County was less severe. The highest reports were from the Shadowmoss area of West Ashley as well as McClellanville, which had about a quarter of an inch.
The farther inland, the worse it was. The limb-sprawled yards and roads, the huge split trees and the dangling or dropped power lines resembled the aftermath of a hurricane, except for the biting cold. A tree that dropped on the Goodwill Store on Trolley Road in Summerville pocked 17 holes in the roof, but staff had the store up and running Thursday.
Joseph Fanning and Amanda Jarratt, of Branchville, fled Wednesday night from the trees snapping above their home, dodged fallen lines and a few fallen power poles, to his parents' home in Ridgeville, because William and Carrie Fanning had a kerosene heater and a turkey smoker to cook food. It wasn't much better there.
"Pop pop pop pop - the trees were snapping. It sounded like a battlefield," Carrie Fanning said.
On Thursday morning, they ventured as far as St. George to find an open store to buy fuel, bread and other supplies.
But around them, generators hummed and chainsaws fired up. A neighbor walked short-sleeved to her mailbox to mail a letter, licking a lollipop as she went. No, she shook her head, she didn't have power. But the house had heat.
Upper Dorchester County took a particularly hard shot. The county detention center lost its water supply. Highway S.C. 15 was still shut down Thursday afternoon from St. George to the Edisto River. Line crews and emergency workers also said it could be a few days before everyone in the country has power restored.
"This is just the start. We'll be clearing (debris) from drainage ditches for a month," said Mike Goldston, county deputy public works director.
Thursday morning, Huff, of Knightsville, sat in the car in his driveway, running the heat as he charged his cell phone. The dead power line draped outside the windshield. As power crews worked just up the road, he tried to decide whether to drive to Charleston to fetch a relative's kerosene heater.
"That neighborhood over there, they have lights on," he said pointing. "The apartments back there, they have lights. The neighborhood across the road has lights. My dogs, they don't like the cold. They've stayed wrapped up in the blankets with us."
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