South Carolina Tornadoes of April 12-13

STP (Signifigant Tornado Parameter) measures how conductive the atmosphere is for EF2+ tornadoes. STP was greater than 11 Monday morning (extremely high).
STP (Signifigant Tornado Parameter) measures how conductive the atmosphere is for EF2+ tornadoes. STP was greater than 11 Monday morning (extremely high).

The early morning hours of April 13, 2020 were one of the most destructive in South Carolina severe weather history. The day after Easter, 23 tornadoes touched down in South Carolina, killing 9 people. Many of these tornadoes were signifigant, and a record 7 of these tornadoes were rated EF-3. South Carolina saw its first EF-4 in 25 years.This phase of the tornado outbreak concluded the overall Easter Outbreak across the Southeast United States. At least 38 people were killed along the path of the severe weather, and thousands of structures were heavily damaged or destroyed. This event was highly anomalous in South Carolina due to overall severity, strength of storms, time of occurrance, and mesoscale (small scale interactions of storms rather than overall system interactions) complexities.

Below is every SC tornado that occured in this outbreak, ordered by strength and path length. Several straight-line wind events also led to damage in SC. Descriptions are from NWS PNS's.

Tornadoes

Estill-Nixville EF-4 (Hampton County)

  • 175 mph winds
  • 5 deaths/60 injuries
  • 6:10 AM
  • 24.04 mile track/1300 yd (~0.75 mi) width

This unusually long track and wide tornado damaged and destroyed many residences,
including mobile and single family homes. In addition, the tornado, which reached a
maximum width of about 0.75 mile, caused extensive damage to trees and powerlines
along its path, which stretched more than 24 miles from southwest of Estill, to near the Colleton County line. The most significant structural damage occurred just south of Estill and over Nixville. A two story house had all of its walls and roof obliterated. At least six residences were destroyed in the hardest hit areas, but there were many others that sustained various levels of damage along the entire path. Tragically, five people lost their lives in the hardest hit areas just south of Estill and in Nixville. The damage pattern suggested that this tornado may have consisted of multiple vortices, which can occur with stronger tornadoes.

This was the first EF-4 tornado to occur in South Carolina since November 1995. It is also the first EF-4 to occur in the LowCountry.

Seneca EF-3 (Oconee, Pickens Counties)

  • 160 mph winds
  • 1+ deaths/10+ injuries
  • 3:20 AM
  • 16.66 mile track/ 500 yd (>0.5 mile) width

A large and significant tornado passed through parts of Oconee and Pickens counties early Monday morning, beginning south of Westminster, and ending north of Clemson. Maximum structural damage to houses and a large warehouse in the area indicate peak winds near 160 mph, for a strong EF3 rating. Damage exists over a wide swath, and the width of the tornado was at least a half mile. There is one known fatality, numerous injuries, and 2 people still missing at the time of this statement.

Hilda EF-3 (Barnwell County)

  • 145 mph winds
  • 0 deaths/0 injuries
  • 5:50 AM
  • 5.45 mile track/ 800 yd width

A tornado touched down in far southeast Barnwell moving northeastward toward the Bamberg county line southeast of the town of Hilda, briefly intensifying to a strong tornado along Hartzog Road. The tornado length was 5.5 miles and had a width of 800 yards at its widest point. The tornado was rated EF-3, with peak winds of 145 mph. The tornado began just north of Highway 64 at Green Branch Road near Indigo Road. The tornado moved northeast across Hercules Creek and caused significant tree damage at a residence on Friendship Road. Several oak and pine trees were uprooted and snapped. A cinder block garage had its metal roofing peeled off and the wind stress shifted the cinder blocks about half way up the wall. Along its northeastward path, there was continued tree damage but the tornado strengthened rapidly as it crossed Hartzog Road just south of November Road. A well built bolted down metal building structure and tin tractor shed was completely destroyed. Further north along Hartzog Road, a residence had part of its roof lifted off and behind the residence, a two story wood frame building was shifted off its foundation and destroyed and an unanchored log cabin was destroyed. As the tornado moved northeast toward Huckleberry Bay Road there were multiple hardwood trees snapped near the base of the trees. The tornado began to weaken as it crossed Old Salem Road continuing to damage trees along its path before dissipating just north of Huttos Chapel Road.

Elko-Livingston-St. Matthews EF-3 (Barnwell, Orangeburg, Calhoun Counties)

  • 140 mph winds
  • 2 deaths/ 7 injuries
  • 5:43 AM
  • 36.9 mile track/ 770 yd width

A strong, long-track tornado began just south of the town of Elko in Barnwell County , then moved in a general northeast direction through Orangeburg County, before dissipating southwest of St. Matthews in Calhoun County before reaching I-26. The tornado path length was about 37 miles, and at its widest point was just under 0.5 miles. The tornado was rated an EF-3, with peak wind speeds of 140 mph. There were 2 confirmed fatalities with at least 7 injured. The tornado began near Orchard Road and Highway 37. Along its entire path, there was widespread tree damage. The tornado snapped 7 wood power poles near US 78 and Turkey Creek. The tornado strengthened as it approached Highway 3 and Gardenia Road, where it destroyed and tossed a wood framed home anchored to the ground, lifted a significant portion of a roof on a brick home, destroyed a fifth wheel camper, and knocked over a pivot irrigation system. The tornado then crossed Norway Road where it snapped multiple power poles. As the tornado reached Fire Tower Road west of Neeses, it intensified further, destroying 3 anchored manufactured homes on Preserver Road near Ninety Six Road It was in this area that the 2 known fatalities occurred to residents in a double-wide manufactured home. The tornado then turned more eastward, crossing Savannah Highway and Dragstrip Rd north of Livingston. There were several homes or manufactured homes that were heavily damaged or destroyed in this area. The tornado gradually weakened as it crossed North Road and dissipated as it crossed into Calhoun County.

Williston-Springfield EF-3 (Aiken, Barnwell, Orangeburg Counties)

  • 140mph winds
  • 0 deaths/0 injuries
  • 5:21 AM
  • 33.48 mile track/ 800 yd width

A strong, long-track tornado began in the Savannah River Site southeast of Jackson, SC, then moved in a general northeast direction in Aiken County near the Barnwell County border. The tornado crossed into Barnwell County northwest of Williston near Davis Bridge Road. The tornado continued northeast across northern Barnwell County and crossed into Orangeburg County and dissipated northeast of Springfield. The tornado path length was approximately 33.5 miles, and at its widest point was just under 0.5 miles. The tornado rating was an EF-3, with peak wind speeds of 140 mph. Based off of high resolution imagery, radar data (including the height debris was detected), and correspondence with Savannah River Site officials, it has been determined that the tornado became strong within the Savannah River Site boundaries as it moved to the northeast. As the tornado moved out of the Savannah River Site, it produced significant damage near Williston Road and Jaywood Road west of Williston. In this area, significant roof damage and a partial wall collapse to a brick house occurred, with a small cinder block workshop destroyed. The tornado then destroyed a vacant cinder block store building, and removed the roof and some of the walls of a metal auto shop building. Nearby trees were all snapped near the base. A mobile home was shifted about 6-10 feet off its foundation along Cherry Tree Road. Along Tinker Creek Road, the tornado destroyed a brick shed and removed most of the roof off a home, completely destroyed a manufactured home near Charleston Highway, and based on aerial photographs blew down a large swath of trees east of the roadway. The tornado then crossed Charleston Highway, removing a large portion of the roof and collapsing an exterior wall of a business. The tornado continued to snap and uproot countless trees as it crossed Davis Bridge Road, and New Forest Road in northern Barnwell County. The tornado moved into Orangeburg County, uprooting many large trees in the town of Springfield, some of which fell on homes and one on a church. The tornado finally dissipated northeast of Springfield, just before reaching the path of another EF-3 tornado just to the east.

Blackville EF-3 (Barnwell County)

  • 140 mph winds
  • 0 deaths/ 0 injuries
  • 5:49 AM
  • 1.38 mile track/ 40 yd width

A tornado started just south of Blackville, SC east of Whitehall Drive near Toby Creek. The tornado damaged several chicken houses by causing the walls to collapse in a few places. The tornado then moved northeast crossing a large empty field, before intensifying as it approached a fiberglass coating facility near Lake Cynthia Road. The tornado collapsed a large segment of a 75 ft tall, 150 ft x 150 ft warehouse, with large steel support beams twisted. 30 cylindrical containers weighing up to 20- 25 thousand pounds each lifted out of their u-shaped saddles and rolled throughout the facility. There was evidence of very minimal tree damage east of Blackville but not enough damage to suggest the tornado track continued that far north. As a result, the tornado likely lifted prior to reaching Highway 3. The tornado path length was just under 1.5 miles and had a width of about 40 yards. The tornado was rated EF-3, with peak winds of 140 mph.

E. Savannah River Site EF-3 (Barnwell County)

  • 138 mph winds
  • 0 deaths/0 injuries
  • 5:35 AM
  • 6.04 mile track/ 50 yd width

Sentinel Satellite Data from April 13, 2020 clearly shows a damage scar beginning at the northern tip of Parr Pond in the Savannah River Site and ending near the intersection of Highway 278 and State Road 21. A tornadic debris signature detected by the KCAE radar aligns with the damage scar. A ground survey also indicated a few trees down just off a field on the eastern side of Fellowship Road as tornado dissipated. Based off of high resolution imagery, radar data (including the height debris was detected), and correspondence with a Savannah River Site official, it is estimated that winds reached EF-3 strength, with speeds up to 138 mph.

Rowesville-Camden EF-2 (Orangeburg, Calhoun Counties)

  • 119 mph winds
  • 0 deaths/ injuries
  • 6:25 AM
  • 10.29 mile track/ 700 yd width

A tornado touched down in Orangeburg County about 4 miles northeast of Rowesville and tracked northeastward across Interstate 26 and Highway 301. EF0 damage occurred from the intersection of Garland and Bethel Forest Road, where the tornado started, to just prior to crossing I-26. The tornado strengthened producing EF-1 damage across agricultural fields and in the Orangeburg Industrial Park. As the tornado crossed I-26 it further strengthened to EF-2 then crossed Highway 301. The tornado rapidly weakened to EF-1 then just north of Highway 301 and further to EF-0 as it moved into the Middle Pen Swamp. Through the remainder of the tornado path it cycled between EF-1 and EF-0 then finally lifted just north of the intersection of Houcks Gin Road and Old State Road. The total tornado path length was 10.3 miles with a maximum width of 700 yards.The tornado caused numerous hardwood and softwood trees to be snapped along the path and overturned multiple pivot irrigation systems. Damage was done to a tractor dealership with the front windows being shattered and the overhead doors being blown in by the wind. Several of the snapped and uprooted trees were blown onto structures causing roof damage to residential and industrial structures. Damage to grain silos and outbuildings on the north side of Highway 301 was estimated by the owner to be $1 million.

Pumpkintown-Cleveland EF-2 (Pickens-Greenville Counties)

  • 120 mph winds
  • 0 deaths/ 3 injuries
  • 3:42 AM
  • 8.01 mile track/ 200 yd width

Survey found large numbers of trees down in the area west of Marietta and east and west of the Pickens-Greenville county line. Highest wind speeds of 120 mph were estimated from the destruction of two mobile homes in the area, locations which also experienced 3 injuries.

Murrells Inlet EF-2 (Georgetown County)

  • 114 mph winds
  • 0 deaths/0 injuries
  • 8:36 AM
  • 4.6 mile track/ 50 yd width

This tornado primarily remained EF-0/EF-1 as it moved across portions of North Litchfield Beach near Boyle Dr. and Cayman Loop where several very large limbs were down. The tornado picked up some strength as it moved near Lakeshore Dr. (likely just west of the road) before crossing near Trace Dr near the intersection of Cockle Shell Ct. There were numerous large trees uprooted in the woods on the north side of Trace Dr. The tornado then lifted northeast into Huntington State Park causing minor damage to some trees near the parking area and some shingle damage to the castle building. The tornado likely moved along the beach of the state park before moving offshore and passing very near the Murrells Inlet WeatherFlow meteorological station where it recorded a wind gust to 114 mph (EF-2 waterspout).

Moncks Corner EF-3 (Berkeley County)

  • 145 mph winds
  • 0 deaths/ 6 injuries
  • 7:38 AM
  • 3.21 mile track/ 400 yd width

The tornado began in the Fairlawn Subdivision, just east of Moncks Corner. Several homes had significant damage along Old Fort Road and Dennis Blvd. There was also extensive snapping and uprooting of trees, as well as vehicle and trailer damage in the area. The tornado moved east-southeast, generally down Dennis Blvd, then eastward across the west branch of the Cooper River, finally ending near the intersection of SC-402 and Cane Gully Road. This tornado was part of a family of tornadoes that began more than 100 miles to the southwest, in Screven county, GA.

Edisto Beach EF-2 (Colleton County)

  • 125 mph winds
  • 0 deaths/0 injuries
  • 8:15 AM
  • 1.16 mile track/140 yd width

The tornado likely started as a waterspout off the coast and then moved inland across Edisto Beach. The tornado ripped portions or large sections of roofs off of six homes. The home most impacted by the storm was on the beach in the the 3300 block of Palmetto Blvd where glass doors and windows were broken in and large sections of the roof were removed. The wall facing the road of the home was pushed towards the road. There was numerous trees snapped off and uprooted along the path, power lines were knocked down, a boat and several vehicles were damaged, and a trailer was flipped over. Numerous homes had windows blown out or suffered minor siding or roof damage. The tornado dissipated around 817 AM in the marsh after leaving Edisto Beach.

Round-O (Walterboro) EF-1 (Colleton County)

  • 110 mph winds
  • 1 death/ 1 injury
  • 6:47 AM
  • 17.4 mile track/500 yd width

The tornado formed near Route 63 about a mile east of the West Walterboro tornado. This tornado grew in size as it tracked through Walterboro and then tracked northeastward through the Low Country Regional Airport and then further northeast with a preliminary length of about 8 miles. Further investigation needs to be done to determine if the path continued farther to the northeast and if so
how far. This tornado produced extensive tree damage along the path across northwestern portions of Walterboro with many hundreds of
trees snapped off or uprooted. Trees falling on houses or the wind associated with the tornado produced mainly minor damage to hundreds of residences and some businesses. Inflow winds into the tornado produced significant tree and some structural damage across the central and southeastern portions of Walterboro. In this area a large pine tree fell through a section of a home killing a person and injuring another. At the Low Country Regional Airport, winds associated with the tornado or winds flowing into the tornado damaged or destroyed most hangers and damaged or destroyed nearly two dozen aircraft.

Note: 17 miles is the updated length. This tornado also warranted NWS Charleston's first ever Tornado Emergency.

Sampit-Spring Gully EF-1 (Georgetown County)

  • 90 mph winds
  • 0 deaths/0 injuries
  • 8:13 AM
  • 4.8 mile path/ 40 yd width

The tornado formed near Sampit, SC just south of Saints-Delight Rd. It crossed Powell Rd near Anna Dr. causing damage to power lines and trees. The tornado moved across a swampy area just south of Sampit then crossed Hwy 17 alt/Hwy 521 causing damage to an auto repair shop, a small double-wide office and two rail road gates. The tornado then moved across the Sollie Road area causing damage to trees and a few mobile homes. It finally lifted after crossing a field between Sollie Circle and Goings St.

Walterboro West EF-1 (Colleton County)

  • 105 mph
  • 0 deaths/ 0 injuries
  • 6:46 AM
  • 3.16 mile track/ 100 yd width

The tornado formed along Route 63 west of Interstate 95 and traveled northeast a little over 3 miles before dissipating in or near the
Ashepoo River/Jones Swamp area just west of Interstate 95. The tornado produced extensive tree damage in the vicinity of Beach Road. The tornado overturned a tractor trailer near mile marker 55 on Interstate 95. Hundreds of trees were snapped off or uprooted along the path.

Givhans EF-1 (Dorchester County)

  • 102 mph winds
  • 0 deaths/ 0 injuries
  • 7:10 AM
  • 2.29 mile track/150 yd width

The tornado touched down near route 61, south of Givhans Ferry State Park, and moved northeast, dissipating just northeast of the intersection of Carter Road and Queen Drive. Along this path was sporadic snapped and uprooted trees. Near the end of the path, at a residence near Carter Road, a two ton wood crate container was lifted and overturned. There was signifigant straight-line wind damage to trees just south of this path, along Campell Road.

Graves EF-1 (Georgetown County) 

  • 100 mph winds
  • 0 deaths/0 injuries
  • 8:15 AM
  • 11.2 mile track/ 50 yd width

-Same circulation as Sampit Tornado-

A tornado formed southwest of Pennyroyal Rd just south of Rowan Dr. The tornado crossed Pennyroyal Rd and caused significant tree damage on both sides. Power lines were also downed at this location. The tornado moved across the swampy areas near the Sampit River as if lifted toward the northeast. Eventually it moved across Hwy 17 Alt/Hwy 521 near Keever St. with tree damage on both sides of the highway. The tornado caused damage near Garrison Rd where numerous trees were snapped and uprooted. A home suffered some damage at this location with a destroyed carport and a couple damaged cars. A mobile home was damaged near Gapway Rd along with damaged power lines. It lifted toward the east-northeast and impacted a small section along Brick Chimney Rd before moving into Pawley Swamp. The tornado finally lifted near Brown's Ferry Road and Dana Lane where it downed large limbs and some trees.

Islandton EF-1 (Colleton County)

  • 90 mph winds
  • 0 deaths/0 injuries
  • 6:39 AM
  • 1.43 mile track/ 50 yd width

The tornado formed just west of Route 21 in southwest Colleton County and traveled about 1.5 miles northeast before dissipating. The tornado snapped of a couple dozen pine trees and broke off some tree branches along the path.

Seabrook Island EF-1 (Charleston County)

  • 105 mph winds
  • 0 deaths/ 0 injuries
  • 8:28 AM
  • 1.25 mile track/ 120 yd width

The same storm that produced a tornado at Edisto Beach also produced a tornado on Seabrook Island. This tornado developed in the southwest portion of Seabrook Island west of the intersection of Seabrook Island Road and Camp Christopher Lane. The tornado traveled northeast about 1.25 miles while snapping off or uprooting dozens of trees and breaking off numerous large branches. A garage was significantly damaged when a large tree fell on it. Several other homes sustained minor damage due to trees falling near homes or large branches falling on homes. The most significant damage occurred on or near the golf course. The tornado dissipated just northeast of the intersection of Seabrook Island Road and The Lookout Road.

Kiawah Island EF-1 (Charleston County)

  • 105 mph winds
  • 0 deaths/0 injuries
  • 8:33 AM
  • 0.3 mile track/60 yd width

The same storm that produced a tornado at Edisto Beach and another on Seabrook Island produced a third tornado on Kiawah Island. The
tornado developed near the 12th hole of a golf course and traveled east-northeast down the fairway and into a residential neighborhood before dissipating just east of Green Winged Teal Road. Evidence of the tornado was clearly seen on both sides of the fairway. Several large trees were snapped off or had large branches broken off.

Jamestown EF-1 (Berkeley County)

  • 108 mph winds
  • 0 deaths/0 injuries
  • 8:00 AM
  • 1.25 mile track/400 yd width

Many trees were snapped and uprooted and one home sustained minor roof damage at the corner of French Santee Rd and Benjy's Trail.

Berea-Easley EF-0 (Pickens County)

  • 80 mph winds
  • 0 deaths/ 0 injuries
  • 3:40 AM
  • 7.4 mile track/ 70 yd width

Tree damage occured, wind speed assesed from fallen trees.

Bethera EF-0 (Berkeley County)

  • 85 mph winds
  • 0 deaths/0 injuries
  • 7:51 AM
  • 0.93 mile track/200 yd width

Multiple trees were snapped and uprooted south of Lem Road.  A large limb was blown onto a house.

Why was this event unusual?

 

Severity:

The overall severity of this event was unusual and places April 13 amoung dates such as March 15 (2008) and March 28 (1984). The state saw 21 tornadoes over the course of one night, and a record 7 of them were EF-3. EF-3 tornadoes statistically account for around 3% of all SC tornadoes. Monday morning, they accounted for ~32% of recorded tornadoes. This outbreak is only behind 1984 for the most tornado related deaths. Unfortunately, 9 people died Monday morning.

Extent:

While many severe weather events in South Carolina impact a single region of the state the worst, this outbreak produced an EF-3 tornado in the Upstate (the first since 1994), Midlands, and LowCountry. All locations in the state recieved rainfall, and severe weather was reported in most counties.

Timing:

Historically, severe weather most often occurs in the afternoon or evening hours. This event occured between midnight and 10 AM. All the EF-3 tornadoes were centered around 6 AM. Severe weather is often limited in the morning due to lower instability (thunderstorm fuel). However, instability was decent Monday morning, and shear (change in wind speed or direction at different atmospheric layers) was very high. The high shear helped produce a strong squall line.

Tornado Merger:

Radar imagery revealed an incredible event early Monday morning. In Barnwell and Orangeburg Counties, two EF-3 tornadoes appeared to merge together. While it is still unkown if the two tornadoes actually combined, they did interact with each other. The southern EF-3 danced around the northern tornado and began to turn north. This took the tornado north of Livingston. The northern tornado then dissipated.

"It's Just a Squall Line":

Often, signifigant tornadoes occur from discrete supercells. These supercells form independent from other storms. However, this squall line had embedded supercells, which produced signifigant tornadoes. Squall lines (also known as Quasi-Linear-Convective-Systems, QLCS) pose a high threat of wind damage (a 105mph wind gust was estimated in Dorchester County), but can also produce tornadoes. It is important to take all severe weather threats seriously. Pop-up Summertime thunderstorms can also produce tornadoes.

Tornadocane?:

Over Berkeley County, off the Grand Strand, and off of Hilton Head, rotation in the squall line created large mesocyclones. These areas of strong rotation wrapped in rain and created miniature swirls in the main line. These mesocyclones took the appearance of small hurricanes. They had swirling rain bands and an eye-like feature in the center. These eye features are actually called Bound-Weak-Echo-Regions (BWER). These occasionally occur with tornadic storms. The tornadocane over Berkeley County produced signifigant wind damage in Dorchester County, and dropped an EF-2 tornado just south of Moncks Corner.

Looking Ahead

While many are still recovering from the event on 4/13, severe weather will occur across much of the same areas exactly a week later on 4/20. The upcoming threat does not compare to the most recent outbreak, but it is still important to plan for the chance of more flooding rain, hail, wind, and tornadoes. The 4/20 event will likely occur overnight, and in a MCS (Mesoscale-Convective-System). This past monday proved that combination can't be taken lightly.

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