EDITORIAL: Dodging a (flying) bullet
It is a huge understatement to say about Clinton and Hurricane Irma, “We dodged a bullet.”
Except for an unfortunate, house-wrecking tree-crash on Calvert Avenue, there was no major damage to the city as Irma transitioned from a hurricane to a tropical storm. Our brave utility crews patched our outages and the next morning went to Laurens to help the CPW. Then, some of our linemen and some of CPW’s linemen packed up for Jacksonville, Fla. The utility there gave them a great welcome and set-up, and the linemen were told to prepare for a week’s stay.
Nobody does “mutual aid” like utilities.
We would suspect all utilities at some time have struggled with storms, fallen trees, downed lines and people anxious to have their power back on. And as Laurens County Council Chairman Joe Wood - whose house and workshop lost power during Irma - says, “There’s nothing like seeing help coming when you need it.”
Clinton’s worst-case scenario related to Irma was this: What if, she had hit as a full-blown hurricane and the Dominion natural gas pipeline’s pipe yard, which is in the former Copeland Plaza parking lot, was up and running?
The pipeyard was virtually vacant Sept. 11, as Irma’s main wind and rain came through Laurens County. The pipeline workforce was back at it Sept. 12 and continues to be busy all around Clinton. There are cleared areas on both sides of AB Jacks Road where the pipeline is to be installed. The contractor also will have to go under Hwy 76 and Hwy 72 - the main western arteries in Clinton - and will ford several streams as part of the overall work for a “cut through” of Laurens County. The pipeline will supply three industries in the Lowcountry with natural gas.
This did not happen, so do not for a minute think we are reporting “the news” - this is a “dooms day” scenario.
Hurricane Irma slices through Clinton with winds over 100 mph, and pipe goes every which a way. There is an apartment complex beside the pipeyard - pipes go through the windows. There is a dialysis center next to the pipeyard - this, too, could have been devastating.
Don’t think it can’t happen. Hurricane Hugo made a sharp turn at Columbia, headed to Rock Hill-Charlotte, and avoided a direct hit on Newberry, Joanna, Clinton and Laurens. Our state learned a multitude of lessons from that devastation 28 years ago (about this same time of year). We can imagine what the response would have been if the hurricane had hit the pipeyard - it would have been “all hands on deck” to save lives. Of that, we have no doubt. And we have no reason to think the pipeline contractor did not have precautions - strapping down the piles of pipe, etc. - in place for horrible weather. A hurricane, however, is a different animal than “high wind.” We’re not sure anything could have really protected the pipeyard in case of a direct hit.
The pipeline construction won’t be here much longer. The payments will have been made to affected landowners, the pipe will be in the ground, the industries will have their natural gas, the county will realize a bump in revenue from having a major utility running a line right through our county. Everything will be fine.
Also, when everything clears out, Copeland Plaza will be a cleared, flat “blank slate” - not the overgrown, jumbled mess is was before the pipeyard. Maybe, it can be marketed to enhance Clinton’s future.