The National Weather Service is working to confirm if tornadoes touched down in Saluda and Newberry counties Wednesday afternoon.
Radar and damage indicate a tornado touched down in Saluda County just before 3 p.m., while another tornado is believed to have touched down near Prosperity in Newberry County just after 3 p.m.
The storm system that spawned the suspected tornadoes moved from west of Saluda northeast to Prosperity, said National Weather Service meteorologist Doug Anderson in the Columbia office.
As of Wednesday night, the weather service had confirmed touch downs in Saluda and Newberry counties but further details such as how long a funnel cloud was on the ground, and how powerful it was would have to wait for the work of survey teams.
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“We won’t be able to send teams out to completely confirm them until (Thursday),” said Mike Proud, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Columbia.
The Newberry County Sheriff’s Office said just before 4 p.m. that downed trees and power lines had closed “several” roads in the county. At least six homes were damaged, with the damage ranging from minor to severe, the sheriff’s office said.
The majority of the damage was in the area from Cy Schumpert Road to Mid-Carolina High School, the agency said in a Facebook post. No injuries were reported.
Residents in a neighborhood near Prosperity began cleaning up debris late Wednesday afternoon.
“It’s the scariest thing I’ve been through in my entire life,” Rebecca Ammons said as she packed up items to spend the night elsewhere. Her family’s home was one of two that Sheriff Lee Foster said were severely damaged near Cy Schumpert and Macedonia Church roads.
No one was killed or injured.
“We were blessed by that,” Foster said.
Richard Hair said his home started shaking as the storm passed overhead, sounding like the “woo” of a train. A tree fell on the house, damaging it and the family’s vehicle.
About two miles away, in the Stoney Hill community, Doug Hipp said he was working at home when heard a strong wind.
“There was a very loud roar,” he said. “Then we came out to lots of tree branches down and no power. But everything can be cleaned up.”
On Wednesday evening, Newberry County volunteer firefighters were helping people clean up and placing coverings over damaged roofs. All of the main roads were open by 6:30 p.m.
One home in Saluda County was damaged after a small tree came down on it, according to Josh Morton, director of Saluda County Emergency Management. The agency received several reports of downed trees and power lines, but no injuries had been reported.
“As the storm is starting to clear up, we’ve got fire and law enforcement out looking,” Morton said of damage. “The National Weather Service said radar showed debris being picked up by a tornado in some different parts of the country. We haven’t managed to get eyes on anything as far as confirming any of that.”
The two suspected tornadoes, along with another reported in Lancaster County, stemmed from a line of severe storms that made its way across the state Wednesday afternoon.
The National Weather Service tweeted around 2:45 p.m. that a tornado was “on the ground producing damage” in Saluda County, and urged residents to take cover.
The weather service said that radar confirmed a tornado at 3:09 p.m. in Newberry County, and that the storm was moving toward Prosperity. At 3:15 p.m., the weather service said a tornado was confirmed southwest of Prosperity and moving northeast. It was unclear if this was separate from the one reported minutes earlier.
Wind gusts on Wednesday reached 28 mph at Williams-Brice Stadium in Columbia, 27 mph at Lake Murray Dam and 22 mph in the Gadsden area, according to Richland County weather data.
SCE&G was reporting about 30 power outages in Saluda County, 48 in Richland County and 286 in Orangeburg County late Wednesday afternoon.
A chance for more showers and thunderstorms will develop Thursday afternoon. Skies are expected to clear Friday with sunshine and highs in the 80s.
Staff writer Tim Flach contributed.