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Heavy storms pounded The T&D Region on Friday afternoon, possibly spawning two tornadoes in Orangeburg County.

Trees were knocked across roadways and power was cut to thousands.

There were no reported injuries, but eastbound traffic on Interstate 26 was brought to a halt by trees on the roadway between mile markers 145 and 165.

National Weather Service meteorologist John Quagliariello said radar showed tornado-producing cells started west of Branchville, moving northeast across Rowesville, continuing northeast across U.S. Highway 178, on to I-26 and then dissipating somewhere east of the Jamison area around 1:54 p.m.

He said another system that may have contained a tornado began northeast of Holly Hill and moved toward Eutawville where it lifted around Eutaw Springs over Lake Marion.

Quagliariello said storm surveyors from the National Weather Service will be in the area on Saturday to determine if tornadoes caused the widespread damage.

A tornado warning was in effect from 1:54 p.m. until 2:30 p.m. Friday for southwestern Calhoun County, west central Clarendon County, northeastern Bamberg County, southwestern Sumter County and central Orangeburg County.

Rachel Green of Halifax Circle, about five miles from Orangeburg near S.C. Highway 33, said she was on the way home from downtown Orangeburg when she received a phone call from her mom.

“She said, ‘Rachel, you need to hurry up and get home,’” Green said.

“So when I came back towards this way from downtown, I could see all of the damage. I could see all of the debris in the street and all. I got to my property and it got worse and worse” the closer she got to her home, she said.

Green noted that she’s lived on Halifax Circle for 35 years and hasn’t experienced the damage of fallen trees and limbs like she did Friday afternoon.

“None of this, not even in (Hurricane) Hugo. None of it did what it did today,” she said.

Her neighbor, Kareem Wallace of Gramling Road, was at home when the storm hit.

“I just thought it was a regular storm,” he said. “It was just real windy.”

Wallace received alerts about a tornado watch and warning, but he ignored them, he said.

“I heard lightning strike a tree and that’s when the power went out. A tree fell on a power line too,” he said.

When he went outside, “everybody was scrambling around just trying to get all of these trees out of the way. They say it was a tornado, but I couldn’t tell.”

Allen Shuler and his grandson Hunter Smoak showed up with a chainsaw and a logging chain.

The two of them worked together and cleared trees from roadways and driveways in the area.

They cleared one from Green’s driveway, too.

When they finished, Green said to Shuler, “Can I give you something?” as she reached out to hand him some cash.

“Yes ma’am,” Shuler said. “You can give me a hug instead.”

The two embraced in her driveway, with a fallen tree pulled to the side.

Green remarked, “Isn’t that a blessing? This is a blessing.”

Volunteer fire departments, state troopers and neighbors cleared trees from roadways throughout the affected area.

As of 5:30 p.m. on Friday, there were 4,105 customers in The T&D Region without electricity due to the storm.

Most of the outages were in Orangeburg and Calhoun counties.

Calhoun County Director of Emergency Management David Chojnacki said trees were reported down in Sandy Run, Fort Motte, Cameron and Midway, but most of the local fire departments removed the fallen trees quickly.

As for the rest of the weekend, there will be increasing cloudiness on Saturday but Easter will be bright and sunny. No rain is predicted for the weekend. Sunday’s high temperature is expected to reach 70.

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

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Staff Writer

Martha Rose Brown covers crime and other topics. The South Carolina native has been a journalist for the past 16 years.

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