At least one tornado touched down near Branchville on Friday afternoon.

NWS: 2 tornadoes possible; neighbors help each other after storms topple trees

That likely wasn’t the only one to hit Orangeburg County. There may have been two others, National Weather Service meteorologist John Quagliariello said Saturday.

He and a couple of other members of the NWS storm survey team accompanied Orangeburg County Emergency Services Director Billy Staley to two areas where damage appeared to be caused by tornadoes.

Staley said the strong, fast-moving storm band moved through The T&D Region on Friday without causing any injuries.

Quagliariello said the NWS confirmed that a tornado split and uprooted trees on Hudson Road and South River Road, just outside of Branchville.

NWS: Tornado near St. Matthews, tornado-producing storm near Orangeburg; trees down on I-26

The NWS survey team is reviewing damage in the Gramling Road area and an area near Holly Hill.

Greg Smith, who’s lived on South River Road for the past decade, said he wasn’t at home when the tornado twisted trees into a neighbor’s home and another neighbor’s shed.

“I was lucky,” Smith said.

The twister blew a few shingles off of his riverfront home and toppled at least eight trees in his yard.

Storms in South kill girl in Florida, bring tornado threat

Smith was at work when a neighbor, who was vacationing in Tennessee, called to tell him that the storm hit.

“Another neighbor called him and then he called me and then I come home,” Smith said.

“I didn’t know what to do,” he said when he saw the branches, trees, limbs and leaves strewn about his yard.

“We had to cut a quarter mile down the road to get in, which I walked on in and I looked around and I kind of didn’t know what to say,” he added.

“And then I got my saw and started helping the fire department and cut my way out,” he said.

The buzz of chainsaws filled the air again on Saturday.

Smith’s brother and nephew arrived at his home to help clear out more of the fallen trees and branches.

Smith’s pet dogs and chickens survived without any injuries.

On Saturday afternoon, Edisto Electric Cooperative crews were repairing utility lines in a swampy area on Hudson Road.

They were surrounded by several fallen and uprooted trees.

A highway guardrail was damaged by trees.

Over on Cloverdale Road, off Gramling Road, Wanda Sky Longhair Murray bundled up with her dog, Jackie, and thought about the work it’s going to take to get her yard cleared up.

Murray was at home on Friday when a suspected tornado “split trees like matchsticks,” she said.

“I happened to be laying down in my bed. I was watching TV and the phone went off,” she explained.

“I get up and walk around the corner of the bedroom into my living room and I saw my plants and wind chimes blowing straight out, horizontally,” she said, gesturing with her arms and hands.

“And I went, ‘Oh heavens!’ and then at the same time the alarm was going off, a severe weather alert. I grabbed my dog by the collar and she’s barking. I was saying, ‘Jackie, come on, there’s no time to bark!’ I grabbed her and I went to my bedroom, which I thought was the safest place,” she said.

“I grabbed my dog by the collar and I tucked her under me. I care more about my dog than my own life. We sat it out until it was over,” she said.

“It was like a freight train, just like they say. It was a freight train!”

“Duck now, no time for nothing else,” she said about the ordeal that lasted about 30 seconds.

She said it felt like an eternity.

“I believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and I prayed,” she said.

She’d spent Thursday cleaning up her yard and getting it pretty for Easter.

She also noted that she’s lived in South Carolina for 67 years and never experienced anything like she did on Friday afternoon just after 2 p.m.

She temporarily lost electricity, but crews restored it later in the day.

As of 5 p.m. Saturday, seven customers in Orangeburg County were without electricity due to Friday’s storm.

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Contact the writer: mbrown@timesanddemocrat.com or 803-533-5545. Follow on Twitter: @MRBrownTandD.


Staff Writer

Martha Rose Brown covers crime and other topics. The South Carolina native has been a journalist for the past 17 years.

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