Tornado confirmed in Richland County

Published: Mar. 3, 2012 at 11:41 AM EST|Updated: Mar. 13, 2012 at 10:42 AM EDT
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Storm over Lake Marion (Source: Tera Baxley)
Storm over Lake Marion (Source: Tera Baxley)

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - The National Weather Service has confirmed that an EF-0 tornado touched down Saturday morning in Richland County.  The tornado touched down west of Monticello Road near Houston Street and Bishopville Avenue, knocking down trees and branches.

"This morning I came out hearing the chainsaws of the electric crew," said Cal Schoon, whose big old pine tree took out a transformer on its way down.

"I looked out the window, saw a lot of wind, but there really wasn't anything I could do, so I sat back down on the couch," said Schoon.  "Next thing I know I saw this flash of light and a large woosh sound.  The sheer force took it down."

Schoon, who's lived in North Dakota's tornado alley, says he heard the storm coming.  When he looked out his back door, he knew there would be trouble.

"I saw things that were actually a different direction, which meant that something was moving differently than just wind."

Rick Stone lives near the path of the tornado.

"Had this big limb that fell and just barely missed my deck," he said.

Stone lives about .2 of a mile from Schoon.  His trees weren't damaged.

"And, I'm still trying to figure out whether it came off one of my trees or came from over where the tornado actually touched down."

Stone, who has never been in a tornado before, knew he was in one when he woke up at 5:30 Saturday morning.

"All of a sudden I heard the wind coming and then all of a sudden my trailer started shaking and then it felt like my bed was lifting off the ground."

The tornado knocked down several trees near Columbia International University. The tornado's path is evident.

The same storm system is blamed for dozens of deaths across the country. Cal and Rick know someone was looking out for them.

"I think we're very lucky. I've seen very much more considerable damage than this and so we're very fortunate."

The storm was rated an EF-0 on the Enhanced Fujita Scale, the system that measures the intensity of tornados. EF-0 is the weakest rating, meaning it had winds between 65 mph and 85 mph.

Jim Kilmer in the National Weather Service office in Columbia says the storm touched down shortly after 5:30 a.m. Saturday.

High winds blew down a fence between the Broad River Correctional Institution and Camille Griffin Correctional Institution on Broad River Road.  Clark Newsom with the South Carolina Department of Corrections says the damage did not compromise security and the fences have since been repaired.

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