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Tornado watch issued for parts of SC as Tropical Storm Irma continues to weaken

Hurricane Irma: As of 11:30 a.m. Monday

Irma has been downgraded to a tropical storm with the threat of high winds and rain
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Irma has been downgraded to a tropical storm with the threat of high winds and rain

A tornado watch has been issued for parts oft he Midlands as Tropical Storm Irma continues to make its way over South Carolina.

The watch has been issued for Bamberg, Barnwell, Orangeburg, Beaufort and Charleston counties. It’s set to expire at 10 p.m., Monday. Hail, a few tornadoes and isolated gusts of up to 70 mph are possible in the affected counties.

As for the rest of the Midlands, forecasters warned South Carolinians not to let their guard down.

“Don’t be fooled,” said Rich Okulski, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Columbia. “If you look out your window right now, we have tropical storm wind gusts.”

As Irma has fallen apart, its wind field has expanded, Okulski said. The storm’s winds now expand more than 300 miles from its center.

Irma is now packing sustained winds of 60 mph, according to the 2 p.m., advisory of the National Hurricane Center. It’s moving north-northwest at 17 mph. The eye is still over Florida.

South Carolina has been feeling tropical force winds and gusts most of Monday. Winds could occasionally gust as strong as 70 mph at times in some coastal areas; up to 60 mph in the Midlands.

The strongest winds are expected through Monday afternoon near the coast, and south and west of the Interstate 26 corridor, according to the National Weather Service in Columbia.

The clouds that spawned a few tornadoes off the east coast of Florida also are expected to do the same in South Carolina. Cool weather over South Carolina is keeping the possibility of tornadoes to a few. But that could change if the weather becomes warmer later in the day, Okulski said.

Life-threatening storm surge flooding along portions of coastal South Carolina is still a danger.

Plus, parts of South Carolina could get three to five inches of rain, with isolated amounts of up to seven inches. Okulski said much of the Midlands, including Columbia, will remain under a flash flood watch and a high wind warning through 2 a.m., Tuesday.

Cynthia Roldán: 803-771-8311, @CynthiaRoldans

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