JOHNS ISLAND, S.C. (AP) – A tornado quickly blew through a neighborhood on the South Carolina coast early Friday and blew out windows, knocked down trees and heavily damaged ten homes.
The storm rolled in around 1 a.m. No injuries or deaths were reported.
Most of the damage happened on Sonny Boy Lane, a neighborhood on Johns Island about a dozen miles west of Charleston. In that community, John Bercik awoke to heavy rain and jumped from his bed as “it started to howl like a train.”
“When the roar started I was terrified. It was a very intense moment,” Bercik said.
By the time he made it out of his bedroom door, the rest of the house was gone – walls blown in, roof missing and the floor spun and moved off the piers the home sat on. He had to find an umbrella to keep the rain off as he searched his living room for his cellphone.
Bercik’s house was the most severely damaged. Others had trees on roofs or shingles blown off. Dozens of volunteers were helping cut damaged trees with chain saws.
Meteorologists issued a tornado warning several minutes before the storm, and radar returns indicated a tornado in the area, blowing debris up to 20,000 feet high into the air.
Officials from the National Weather Service ruled the storm a tornado, and said they would release more details on its strength later.
The tornado was the only tornado reported in the U.S. in the past six days. Meteorologists said the biggest threat Friday was flooding from heavy rain and from onshore winds during high tides.
Crews had to help some people out of trapped homes, but no one was hurt, said James Ghi, a battalion chief with the St. John’s Fire District.
“Obviously, we’re really thankful,” Ghi said.