Six people sustained injuries – none of them life-threatening – when a tornado destroyed a church and two mobile homes today in the town of St. Stephen, 45 miles north of Charleston.
The storm reduced the Refuge Temple on S.C. 52 to a pile of wood.
Craig Robinson, 50, was inside cleaning the church like he does every Saturday before Sunday services.
When he heard the tornado approach, he prayed.
“I bent down on my knees and asked the Lord to have mercy,” he told The (Charleston) Post and Courier.
Lt. Stacy Harris with the St. Stephens Fire Department said no one suffered serious injuries from the storm.
Saturdays’ storm system brought with it heavy rain, hail, high winds and tornado warnings for much of the state.
McEntire Air Force Base reported seeing a funnel cloud that did not touch down, according to Meteorologist Jim Kilmer of the National Weather Service Office in Columbia. He said that was the only report of a funnel cloud in Richland and Lexington counties. Whether the cloud was a tornado would take a day or two to confirm, Kilmer said.
The Midlands saw mostly blustery winds and intermittent rain, mostly in the morning. But there were reports of scattered downed trees and quarter-sized hail at the Village of Sandhill shopping center in northeast Richland County, Kilmer said.
Most of the calls the Columbia Weather Service office received were about golfball- and softball-sized hail in Clarendon County. Some news outlets and bloggers were reporting hail in Orangeburg County as well.
The worst weather developed late in the afternoon east of Columbia and Florence. The National Weather Service issued tornado watches and high wind and rip tide warnings for the South Carolina coast and a tornado warning for Clarendon and Horry counties.
The storms are part of a larger system that has brought deadly tornadoes to Oklahoma, Arkansas, Mississippi and Alabama the past two days, killing 17 people in four states.