Underground utilities: Not just for the look

Crews working on the beautification project along Ocean Boulevard in Myrtle Beach

Crews are working to complete the last few blocks of a beautification project along Ocean Boulevard in Myrtle Beach and a big part of that project includes moving the utilities underground.

But officials say that isn't being done just for the way it will look; it is also to help prevent outages.

"With underground, the power is buried underground. It is in protective conduit so it is typically easier for us to repair what damage is done. It is often minimal damage. It is much less time consuming than placing poles back and stringing cables or electricity wires from pole to pole," said Susan Mungo of Santee Cooper Electric.

Last winter ice storms cut power to thousands of people in the area and severe storms, including hurricanes, commonly knock out power to residents and businesses.

The owner of the Diplomat Hotel, James Journey, said he is glad to see the city working on this project.

"We will not be suffering from the lack of power. Also, it is very ugly. It will make the beach look much nicer," he said.

The stretch of road the city is currently working on goes from 2nd Avenue North to 9th Avenue North and will take three winter seasons, from November to April, to complete.

The city has already completed work on 53 blocks of Ocean Boulevard, City Spokesman Mark Kruea said.

Journey says though it is inconvenient to have the work done outside his door, it's worth it.

"From November to April, our business is not great so the benefit that we would arrive from it will outweigh what we would have to go through with the construction and the noise," he said. "The benefit that we will get, not having the lines overhead and being out of power for a certain period of time, it will outweigh and pay for itself."

And any damage that is done to the underground lines during storms is much easier to repair that traditional overhead lines, Mungo said.

"It is easier to come back say after a wind storm and repair the typical damage to underground rather than overhead," she said. "Say we do have a section of underground that goes bad, we now have equipment that can pinpoint where that is so it's typically a pretty quick fix to pinpoint where the problem is, pull it out, repair it and the power's restored."

The project costs $7 million dollars and is being paid for by the city, Kruea said.