Two tornadoes touch down in Allendale County

Weather officials have confirmed that the fierce storm that swept through the area and caused damage in Allendale County was the work of not one, but two, tornadoes.

Both tornadoes touched down in the county, said Gidget Stanley, the Allendale County emergency management director.

Both tornadoes occurred after midnight, Saturday, April 11.

On Saturday afternoon, Stanley was assessing damage along with Steven Taylor and John Jelsema from the National Weather Service office in Charleston. The men were there to determine if a tornado had occurred.

"In my opinion, it was an F1 (tornado), but they are here to determine what it is," Stanley said Saturday afternoon before receiving results back from the National Weather Service office.

The weather service released a report to Stanley by Saturday evening confirming the tornadoes, she said.

The first tornado touched down in the county near Martin at 12:26 a.m. and before finishing its landfall at 12:28 a.m., traveled 1.2 miles and left a path 300 yards wide, Stanley said.

The tornado was classified as an EF-1 with winds of about 100 mph, she said.

The EF or Enhanced Fujita tornado scale ranks these cyclonic storms according to their destructive power and wind speeds. The scale runs from EF-0, or a weak storm, to an EF-5, which is incredibly powerful.

The second tornado hit ground almost immediately after the first at 12:30 a.m. just north of Martin. It moved across the landscape in the Roberts Lane area for 5.6 miles creating a destructive path about 500 yards wide, Stanley said.

This tornado ended at the Cave Methodist Church on U.S. 278, but not before destroying it. The historic church was built in the 1850s.

The church, which was at least two stories tall, was completely leveled. Also the church's cemetery was heavily damaged with many gravestones overturned.

The church is located near the intersection of Barnwell Highway (U.S. 278) and Appleton Road.

"When it hit Cave church, that's when it stopped," Stanley said of the tornado.

The second tornado was an EF-2 with winds between 120 and 130 mph, she said.

Along Roberts Lane a mobile home had windows blown out and a house suffered some damage too, Stanley said.

However, the weather that night caused no injuries or fatalities, she said.

The National Weather Service office in Columbia issued a statement at 2:22 p.m., April 11 stating that a tornado had been tracked 35 miles from Grovetown, Ga. to New Ellenton. Tornado damage was confirmed in Grovetown with several frame houses, mobile homes and businesses damaged.

One storm-related fatality in Beech Island was reported to the National Weather Service as well as some injuries, according to the NWS press release.

The tornado moved east along U.S. 278 with significant damage near the intersection of S.C. 302 and U.S. 278. Wind speeds in this area were estimated between 136 to 165 mph, according to the NWS statement.

The church was the most significant damage the area had sustained, Stanley said.

Rodney Stanley, the Allendale County fire chief, said there were about 300 to 370 power outages in the county and four storm-related auto wrecks but they had no reports of injuries or fires.

Peeples Hunt Club was also heavily damaged, he said.

Gidget Stanley, (no relation to the fire chief), later said that 500 people had been without power.

"Power was restored throughout the county by Saturday afternoon by 5 p.m.," she said.

Roger Riley, the Barnwell County emergency management director, said he had been out in the storm that night until 3 a.m. The county had not received any damage that had been reported to him other than a downed power line.