Despite thousands without power, 'fortunate' day in Aiken Co.

By: Chad Mills
By: Chad Mills
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Before sunrise, an ice-laden pine tree snapped and fell onto Galante


News 12 at 6 o'clock / Wednesday, Feb. 12, 2014

AIKEN, S.C. (WRDW) -- Wednesday morning, Sean Galante and his wife Tina got a rude awakening.

"It sounded like an earthquake," recalls Sean. "I mean, it was a big loud crash."

Before sunrise, an ice-laden pine tree snapped and fell onto Galante's mobile home off Chime Bell Church Road near New Ellenton.

"If you've never had a tree hit your house, it's a scary situation," says Galante.

He says New Ellenton Fire Department helped remove the tree from his roof. However, he still has a punctured roof that is leaking sleet and freezing rain. Galante says he's lucky, though. He says if the tree were just feet closer to his home, he and his wife might have been crushed in their bed.

"If it had been any longer, we would have had a tree in our bedroom laying in our bed," he says.

Despite a myriad of downed trees and braches, EMS Director Tommy Thompson says Aiken County was lucky during a storm of "historical proportions."

Much of the area near North Augusta got a lot of freezing rain. Toward Aiken, sleet and some snow was more prevalent. First responders were called out to a number of accidents and electrical fires, but most were minor.

"It was a tremendous effort on the part of all your public services and emergency services personnel. We've had teams composed of engineering and utilities, public services, even parks and recreation," says Lt. Jake Mahoney with the Aiken Department of Public Safety.

Aiken County is expected to be hit with four or five more hours of freezing rain. Sleet will likely move in again on Thursday morning. Things should start clearing up Thursday afternoon. EMS Director Thompson says strong gusts of wind on Wednesday night could create more downed trees and more power outages.

At last check, SCE&G reports 11,148 outages in Aiken County, 2,814 in Allendale County, 2,101 in Barnwell County, and 232 in Edgefield County. Besides Dorchester County, Aiken County has the most in the state. Aiken Electric Cooperate currently reports 5,679 outages in Aiken County.

As conditions continue to worsen, Lt. Mahoney is preaching safety.

"If you don't need to go out, stay at home. The only way you should be on the road is for an extreme emergency. If that happens, call 911 first. Let us come to you," he says.

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