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Electric Feeling: WBTV Investigation helps reimburse homeowners after power surge cost thousands

A power surge sent an overwhelming current into homes and townhomes, destroying electronics and damaging property.
Published: May. 20, 2022 at 5:04 PM EDT
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INDIAN LAND, S.C. (WBTV) - Homeowners across several Indian Land neighborhoods are receiving thousands of dollars in reimbursements after a WBTV Investigation.

WBTV first told you about their situation in February. Homeowners were left with fried electronics and other major problems caused by a power surge. Then another power surge struck in March.

After the first surge, Duke Energy refused to take responsibility for the problem and to reimburse homeowners.

The story at Silver Run and Glenn Laurel communities started on January 9 with a loud pop and a blue flash of light.

A power surge sent an overwhelming current into homes and townhomes, destroying electronics and damaging property.

“A surge protector where a computer was plugged into the wall, was on fire,” Laurel Castrano told WBTV. “We were panicked, I was screaming, he was screaming, I was looking for my fire extinguisher.”

Thousands of dollars worth of electronic equipment was damaged and destroyed.

Homeowners filed claims with Duke Energy and the company that processes them called Sedgwick, hoping to get reimbursed for their losses. Their claims were denied because of a Duke Energy policy stating the company is not responsible for losses resulting from power outages or voltage fluctuations.

WBTV spoke with Duke Energy spokesperson Jeff Brooks in February about why the homeowners claims were denied. A reporter asked what claims are left to reimburse if Duke’s policy abstaining responsibility is so comprehensive.

“There are still some claims that occur due to a variety of things,” Brooks said. “If it was, if it was an error on Duke Energy’s part or something that that was installed incorrectly.”

“Well, this this this sounds like an error on Duke Energy,” a WBTV reporter said.

“Well, what it is is it’s a failure of a piece of equipment,” Brooks said.

Emails from Duke and information shared by employees on the ground with customers point to recently-installed powerlines as the problem. The lines crossed and were sometimes connecting in windy conditions.

On March 19, another power surge struck and homeowners’ losses were mounting. Refrigerators, hot tubs, wine coolers, motherboards and HVAC units were all rendered useless after the powerful current of electricity.

This time, Duke relented and agreed to reimburse them for both incidents.

“We know that in both events, customers have claimed that damage occurred at their homes as a result of the power fluctuation. And in the first event, some customers were informed that Duke Energy would reimburse them for that damage. After investigating both incidents, and in light of the unusual circumstances of these two similar events, Duke Energy will provide appropriate compensation to customers based on their filed claim through its claim adjustment process,” the statement from Duke read.

“We had our checks by Friday,” David Cowser said.

“Definitely the news report was the one that I think was was what did it,” Nicole Scotty said.

Duke customers impacted by the surge have received more than $15,000 in reimbursements for all of the damage.

“I got to the point my wife and I we had just given up. It’s like ‘well, whatever’ and then when we did the second story and things just turned around quickly,” Ray Knott said.

Homeowners there also started filing complaints against Duke with the South Carolina Public Service Commission about the power surges and believe that helped turn the tide in their favor too. If you’re having issues with your utility provider you can file a complaint with the Commission here.

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