Irene appears to have left South Carolina relatively unscathed

COLUMBIA, S.C. — South Carolinians can breathe a collective sigh of relief today as Hurricane Irene appears to have left the Palmetto State relatively unscathed.

The storm, which made landfall in Nags Head, N.C., shortly after 7:30 a.m. as a Category 1 hurricane, weakened overnight but not before whipping the coast of South Carolina with winds of up to 40-55 mph.

The winds caused power outages and downed trees throughout Charleston, Georgetown and Horry counties as it skirted the coast Friday, leaving many without power. But by mid-morning today, most of outages in the Lowcountry had been restored.

As of 10 a.m., only 17 Santee Cooper customers were without power, mostly in the Berkley and Georgetown County areas. About 20 South Carolina Electric & Gas customers were without power.

The majority of the power outages continue to be for the Horry County area. As of 10 a.m., about 10,000 Horry Electric customers were without power, and crews were contending with about 1,256 outages.

State and local emergency management officials also reported downed trees and other road debris, but no significant damage or injuries. In Horry County, spokeswoman Lisa Bourcier said a final assessment has revealed “no significant damage” to the area’s beaches, roads or structures.

Derrec Becker, a spokesman for the S.C. Emergency Management Division, said overall there was minor damage throughout Georgetown and Horry counties. “Most of the county emergency management divisions are going to normal operations today,” Becker said.

And while the worst is over for South Carolina residents, residents living along the Outer Banks of North Carolina continue to watch with great concern as the first hurricane of the season continues its trek along the Eastern Seaboard today.

Becker said the state’s emergency management division would remain at an elevated level while waiting to see what happened in North Carolina. In addition, many of the state’s utility companies, which have mutual aid agreements with North Carolina utility companies, are waiting to see how North Carolina fares.

Relief organizations such as the American Red Cross also are on standby. Anna Kate Christophillis with the organization’s Columbia region said the Red Cross would hold a national call this morning with all of its regions. The Columbia region is sending six disaster relief volunteers to North Carolina.

“Once the storm has passed, we can assess the damage. At that point, our national organization will create a disaster response operation, and that’s when all of our resources will be mobilized,” she said.

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