FLORENCE, S.C. --Primary efforts today in the ice storm recovery for Florence County have been focused on clearing the roadways of debris and conducting assessments of damage within the county.
Significant progress has been made on road clearing and preliminary damage assessments indicate in excess of 32,000 cubic yards of vegetative debris has been generated by the ice storm within Florence County, Kristy Hughes, the county's natural hazards coordinator, said.
Citizens of the unincorporated areas of Florence County are urged to begin taking vegetative debris from their yards to one of Florence County’s 13 manned waste collection sites. These sites will be open to receive debris during their regularly scheduled operational hours, Hughes said.
Florence County emergency operation officials said they plan to compile results from damage surveys and make their official request for a disaster declaration to help pay for Wednesday's ice storm cleanup.
A big part of that declaration won't be damage to Florence County homes as there wasn't that much reported or observed, Hughes said.
"Overall, I think we got pretty lucky," she said of the reported and observed figure of less than $10,000 in residential storm damage with most of that damage to structures like porches that weren't the main residence.
Though residential structures escaped major damage, many areas of the county saw heavy damage in the form of blocked roads, downed trees and debris on roads.
And damage was spread evenly throughout the county.
Areas of West Florence look like nothing much happened while areas around Pamplico look "like a bomb went off," Hughes said.
The deciding factor in damage was the total ice fall, and some areas got much more than others, she said.
Two warming shelters -- Lake City and South Florence High Schools -- will remain open as will the special needs shelter at Carolinas Hospital System in Florence as long as the county's power situation dictates the need, she said.
In addition to compiling the county's disaster declaration request, emergency officials expect to decide whether or not to request volunteer organization assistance for cleanup, Hughes said.
Such organizations would be able to lend residents a hand with their cleanup needs, she said.
Hughes said residents should continue to phone in their residential structural damage figures to the emergency operations center 843-665-7255.
Hughes also said residents should continue to be patient about power restoration and to drive carefully if they get out and about Friday.
SCDOT road crews continued road clearing efforts and utility crews pushed to restore power to areas hardest hit by the storm.
Most primary roads have returned to normal conditions, according to a 4 p.m. update from SCDOT.There are secondary roads that may have some snow and icy patches.
"The temperatures have risen and the snow and icy patches are melting," SCDOT spokesman Robert Kudelka said in a release. "Motorists are advised to be aware of black ice caused by refreezing of wet areas overnight . Crews in 3 of the 7 Districts have returned to normal operations. We anticipate the remaining Districts will return to normal operations after this evening. On-call crews will be on standby to address any concerns and emergencies."
Kudelka said debris removal operations will continue throughout the day and resume at 7 a.m. Saturday.
Adam Swindler, manager of Florence's Parks & Beautification, said crews have been working around the clock to aid in the clean-up. Four teams of 10 people are out cleaning up trees and ice and salting the roads.
"We've got everything we have out on the streets to clean up," he said.
Power crews continue to work diligently to restore power to those who are without -- though full restoration isn't forecast to happen across the Pee Dee until late Sunday night.
As of about 4:30 p.m. in Florence County 14,436 Duke Energy Progress customers remained in the dark, according to the Duke Energy website.
That's down from 15,741 customers Friday morning.
Duke numbers showed varying degrees of improvement across the Pee Dee. Marion County outages dropped from 9,202 Friday morning to 7,247 Friday afternoon.
Dillon County outages dropped from 5,330 Friday morning to 3,234. In Williamsburg County, Duke had 4,281 customers out Friday morning and 4,208 Friday afternoon.
Santee Electric Cooperative saw similar improvements, 8,063 Florence County customers out Thursday and 6,847 customers Friday. In Williamsburg County Friday the cooperative had 7,981 customers out, down from 11,486 customers Thursday.
Hundreds of utility workers from North Carolina and Florida arrived in Marion at the Marion Town Center parking lot for cleanup and power restoration.
At the height of the storm more than 97 percent of Marion County was without power.
Marion County officials worked to assess the damage done to their county.Like other Pee Dee counties, Marion County residents may not see full power restoration until late Sunday night.
Marion County Administrator Tim Harper said state emergency management workers are helping with damage assessments.
"Crews are all over the county working," he said. "Duke Energy has cut down outages from 90 percent to 60 percent and Pee Dee Electric Cooperative has cut down outages from 5,000 to 3,000."
Harper said citizens can report damage to emergency management and so they can report it to state officials to request national disaster relief for public assistance funding. Residents experience property damage can call 843-423-8268 or 843-423-8267.
Harper said the storm knocked out power to the county's administration building and officials have been housing the emergency operations center at the multi-purpose building.
The Marion County Manager said the storm ranked close to the ice storm that the area a decade ago.
"I think we have more power outages but not the damage as the storm in 2004," Harper said.
More than 60 people crowded into Marion Fire Department which was turned into a warming shelter, Mullins fire officials said their station was similarly packed. Marion High School was also turned into a warming shelter.
Marion County School District officials said schools remained closed for a fourth day and the final regular season basketball game between cross-county rivals Marion Swamp Foxes at Mullins Auctioneers was rescheduled from Friday to Monday at 6 p.m.
For some customers Thursday power service was an on-again, off-again, on-again proposition as ice, winds and trees worked to undo progress that had earlier been made to restore power.
That pattern may repeat itself Friday as utility crews continue their efforts.
"In some cases, a customer may have experienced more than one outage. To repair infrastructure, the company will often have to bring customers off line to safely replace equipment before restoring power to a greater numbers of customers," according to a release issued by Duke Energy Progress Thursday afternoon.
SCDOT road crews worked to keep an eye on Pee Dee and Grand Strand roads overnight and will return in force with daylight to tree and debris cleanup operations, Ray George, assistant district maintenance engineer, said Friday morning.
Utility lines -- some possibly energized -- are difficult to see entangled in trees and other debris in the dark and the majority of SCDOT cleanup work will be done in daylight, George said.
Crews Thursday conducted a survey of Pee Dee roads and worked on clearing of snow, ice, trees and other debris along with Florence County firefighters and utility restoration crews.
Primary roads throughout the area are in good shape while secondary roads may be in need of work, George said.
SCDOT crews have worked with utility crews to clear roads and restore power, he said -- and have gotten an assist from those same utility crews who have worked to re-open some roads where SCDOT crews couldn't immediately respond.
South Carolina Highway Patrol troopers have also been a big help when it comes to removing smaller limbs and debris, George said.
"If we can get the roads cleared off it'll calm down some," George said.
Those efforts will continue today and the primary focus will again be on opening roads -- debris will be pushed off to the side for pickup later, George said.
SCDOT crews would conduct another assessment of Pee Dee and Grand Strand roads Friday to see where they stand.
George said it was still too early in the effort to say how much progress had been accomplished compared to how much remained to get done.
While it may be too early to forecast the end of cleanup efforts, SCDOT officials know how the effort will eventually end.
The final phases of recovery from this storm, at least for Florence County emergency management officials and SCDOT crews, will be making the rounds to pick up the trees and other debris that was pushed to the side of roads during the initial cleanup phase.
"That'll be a little bit of a process," George said.