Warren Smith was at the Walmart on North Road when the storms hit on Thursday afternoon. There was heavy wind, rain and hail.
When it began to die down, he left.
“I thought I was in a safe zone,” he said.
But as he was driving down Broughton Street, a limb fell and shattered the rear window of his Ford Fusion.
“When it cracked, I couldn’t believe it,” Smith said.
Storms hit The T&D Region in two waves on Thursday afternoon, bringing heavy winds and rain. Trees fell on houses, thousands lost power and traffic was stalled by debris on the roads.
“The first round had probably the strongest winds. It had the greatest instability,” National Weather Service Meteorologist Doug Anderson said.
The strongest gust reported in Orangeburg County was 64 mph.
Radar indicated that the second round of storms may have brought 60 to 70 mph winds to the St. Matthews area, Anderson said. Radar indicated the heavy winds were 2,000 feet above the ground and the National Weather Service wasn’t immediately sure if the wind speed was that fast closer to the ground.
Although the storm caused widespread damage, the National Weather Service did not see any indication on the radar that a tornado hit the area.
“We did not see any clear, well-defined indication of rotation,” Anderson said.
“I’m not going to rule anything out,” he said.
Among the damage reported to the National Weather Service:
• A tree was down on Homestead Road north of Bowman.
• The awning was torn off Young’s Market on Cannon Bridge Road.
• A tree was down on Interstate 26 near mile marker 145.
• A tree was down on U.S. Highway 301 near Cope.
• A tree was down on S.C. Highway 400 at Wendover Avenue, east of Norway.
• Multiple trees were down along Cordova Road between Cherry Hill Road and Rivelon Road.
Heavy damage was also reported along North Road, including on Partridge Road.
Dwayne Metts was at home when the storm began. There was “a lot of wind and rain with some hail in it.”
The wind twisted the tops of trees like a tornado, he said.
He didn’t realize a large tree fell on his neighbor’s home until afterward. He called Delano Scott, who hurried home from work in Columbia to find the tree resting on his roof.
“I’m not sure of the damage until we take the tree off of it,” he said.
Scott said, “This is the first time something like this has happened.”
Down the road, Tara Chavis said the storm was “rough, rough.”
Her car received some damage, but her home was fine. But next door, a tree caused heavy damage to a porch.
The Department of Public Utilities had about 5,500 customers without power at the height of the storms, spokesman Randy Etters said.
Department employees were able to track the storms’ path through power outages: first the Highway 400 area, then Walmart, then the area behind the Prince of Orange Mall, Longwood Drive and St. Matthews Road in the area near Hillcrest.
“It was very bad. We sustained damage to multiple areas across our system,” Etters said.
The department sent out all its crews, plus contractors who are working with the department.
“We started working on this the minute the storm started knocking power down,” Etters said. The crews were pulled back when the second round of storms started up.
The priority Thursday night was restoring power, he said. “We can make it pretty tomorrow.”
Orangeburg County Emergency Services Director Billy Staley warns the fallen trees and power lines make for a dangerous situation. He urged people to use caution when they’re outside and clearing debris.
He is requesting the National Weather Service survey the widespread damage. While much of it was concentrated on the central part of the county, downed trees were also reported in other areas.
There were no reports of injuries Thursday night or people needing housing assistance from the American Red Cross, he said.
The National Weather Service is forecasting a nice and dry Friday. Strong thunderstorms could return Saturday.