A strong storm swept fast and furious over the Augusta region Friday downing trees and power lines, blocking streets, freezing railroad crossing arms and threatening afternoon school bus routes.
“We’ll be cleaning up for the next week or so,” city traffic engineer Steve Cassell said Friday afternoon. “We’re still getting calls and stuff coming down.”
At least two people were injured when a tree fell on Dunns Lane, Augusta-Richmond County Fire Chief Chris James said. One victim sustained a fracture, the other was knocked unconscious.
The Richmond County School District sent automatic phone messages to all parents concerning the possible transportation delays and an additional message to families with students at the two schools without power.
About 11,000 Georgia Power customers in Richmond County were without power at 3 p.m., a utility spokeswoman said. The company does not have an estimate of when all power will be restored, but a city officials said he was told 8 p.m.
Recreation, Parks and Facilities Director Tom Beck said power remained out at several Augusta facilities including Julian Smith Casino and Augusta Aquatics Center. Some facilities and equipment sustained hail damage and numerous trees fell in city cemeteries and parks, he said.
Aiken County had 2,978 outages among SCE&G customers. About 1,400 Jefferson Electric customers were without power. Spokesman Steve Chalker said most of those customers were in McDuffie County.
The National Weather Service confirmed that a tornado touched down five miles north of Wagener in Aiken County. Crews are currently surveying the area to determine the extent of the damage. The South Carolina Highway Patrol reported numerous roadways blocked by fallen trees around Aiken County.
Meteorologist Michael Cammarata said the majority of the storm has already passed and shouldn’t be expected to hit the area again.
Only a trace of rain was recorded at Bush Field Airport during this afternoon’s storm. About 0.15 inches was recorded at Daniel Field Airport.
“Their certainly was rain in the Augusta area today,” Cammarata said of the recording, “but it somehow missed these two reporting stations.”
Two Richmond County schools reported power outages. A.R. Johnson Health Science and Engineering Magnet School had limited power Friday and officials were working to get generator power to the campus, according to school system spokesman Louis Svehla.
Lamar-Milledge Elementary School was completely without power, but classrooms were working with the natural lighting from the many windows throughout the building.
Afternoon bus times have not yet been altered, but Svehla said without knowing what the conditions on the roads will be, buses could run late.
In Columbia County, a car was submerged in water after it hydroplaned and wrecked in a ditch off Interstate 20 near Belair Road, according to an e-mail from Emergency and Operations Director Pam Tucker. No one was injured in the crash.
Pea-sized hail was reported from Thomson to Harlem to Augusta to Aiken, most of it hitting during a brief but torrential downpour that saw thick sheets of rain that reduced visibility to only a few feet.
In Aiken, the weather forced Battle of Aiken organizers to turn away school children Friday morning. The weekend long event traditionally opens Friday to schools around South Carolina, but Wayne Jones, the advertising chairman, said “we have to look after life and limb.”
Staff Writers Kyle Martin and Donnie Fetter contributed to this report.