At least one death was reported in connection to the spring storm that brought hail, damaging winds and at least one confirmed tornado to South Carolina, officials said Saturday.
James Adkinson, 63, of Beech Island, died around 11:30 p.m. Friday when a car he was driving struck trees that had fallen over the roadway, Aiken County Coroner Tim Carlton told several media outlets.
Adkinson was wearing a seat belt, and the South Carolina Highway Patrol is investigating, Carlton said.
National Weather Service surveyors were dispatched to Aiken County to inspect damage from a confirmed tornado that touched down there Friday night as the storm rumbled through the state. The tornado, with winds of between 136 and 165 mph, uprooted or snapped numerous trees and cut a path half a mile wide from Beech Island to New Ellenton, forecasters said.
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With at least 10 counties reporting damage from the storm, state officials said Aiken and three nearby counties — Abbeville, Anderson and Greenwood — bore the brunt of the impact.
Statewide, 20 homes were completely destroyed, with dozens of others suffering major damage, said Derrec Becker, spokesman for the state Emergency Management Division.
One Aiken County resident told the Augusta Chronicle he was in shock as he walked through the wreckage of his auto glass business and nearby mobile home.
"I can't believe it came through like this," said Darrell Miller, who was inside his mobile home with his wife and their three children when the storm hit. "It just started lifting up."
The family escaped by climbing out a door when the structure was thrown on its side and took cover in a ditch until the storm blew over, Miller told the paper.
The high winds also ripped the roof from a First Citizens bank in Aiken, according to Sheriff's Capt. Charles Barranco, who said authorities were coordinating with the Red Cross to open shelters in the area.
"We are still getting calls," Barranco told reporters at a news conference. He said officials were going door-to-door in some neighborhoods checking on residents in areas hardest hit by the storm.
The storm also brought hail to many central areas of the state, with pieces as large as one-inch falling in the Barnwell area, National Weather Service meteorologist Kim Campbell said.
The day after the storms, thousands of South Carolina residents woke up without power. Duke Energy reported that about 3,800 of its South Carolina customers were still without power Saturday afternoon, and about 700 South Carolina Electric & Gas Co. customers reported outages.
On Saturday, Gov. Mark Sanford asked the state's residents to keep those affected by the storms in their thoughts.
"While we're still ascertaining the extent of the damage, it's clear that a significant number of South Carolinians have been impacted, from losing their homes in some cases to dealing with other damage, debris, and power loss," Sanford said. "I'd ask every South Carolinian to join me, Jenny and the boys in keeping those impacted by these storms in their thoughts and prayers in the days and weeks ahead."