Santee Cooper ends controlled spill on Lake Marion (copy)

Santee Cooper conducts a controlled spill on Oct. 8, 2015 at the Santee Dam. File

With Hurricane Florence bearing down on South Carolina, the state's public electric and water utility is taking steps to lower water levels on two major lakes and get resources in place for repairs after the storm. 

Santee Cooper has been running as much water as possible through their hydroelectric generating systems in an effort to lower water levels on Lake Marion and Lake Moultrie, said Mollie Gore, a spokeswoman for the utility. 

Thus far, water levels have dropped by 3 inches on the lakes, Gore said.

While that doesn't sound like much, the lakes cover 160,000 acres on their surface, and that translates to more than 8 billion gallons of water released. 

If water levels start climbing too high, the utility will open up spillways to release more water downstream in order to avoid damage to their network of dams and dikes, Gore said. 

Santee Cooper also opens up its spillways as a normal part of hydroelectric generation anytime water levels climb too high.

In the Midlands, South Carolina Electric & Gas announced it was lowering water levels on Lake Murray ahead of Florence's impact. 

The storm, meanwhile, is expected to bring significant rainfall, especially to inland areas of South Carolina. 

According to the National Weather Service's Charleston office, rain in Moncks Corner, which sits on the south end of Lake Moultrie, could be as much as 6 inches. Areas farther north could see as much as 8 inches. 

Gore said Santee Cooper is prepared to respond as needed.

"It's something we'll be monitoring proactively," she said. 

 And local officials are also working to ensure the public is safe and that first responders and rescue workers know how to respond to flooding.

"We work very closely with (Santee Cooper)," said Hannah Moldenhauer, a Berkeley County spokeswoman. "We have an incident accident plan. We train for flooding with them regularly."

Once the storm passes, the utility will also be working to restore electrical power to areas under blackout conditions.

Santee Cooper has additional personnel on hand in addition to utility workers who've come in from out of state to help with recovery efforts, Gore said. Specialized equipment to allow repairs in flooded areas has also been brought in and is standing by if needed.

Reach Gregory Yee at 843-937-5908. Follow him on Twitter @GregoryYYee.

Gregory Yee covers breaking news and public safety. He's a native Angeleno and previously covered crime and courts for the Press-Telegram in Long Beach, CA. He studied journalism and Spanish literature at the University of California, Irvine.