Originally created 09/26/00

Storms, lightning hit area



The thunderstorm came suddenly to portions of Aiken County, hammering some areas with lightning and rain that fell sideways.

But despite television weather reports of a tornado warning, the night turned out to be much ado about nothing.

"That's right," Beech Island firefighter Rick Butts said. "We've had one tree down and heavy rains."

For more than an hour, police scanners crackled with reports of downed trees, accidents and occasional power outages.

The storm, pushed along by a cold front moving across the South, dumped anywhere from a quarter inch to an inch and a half of rain on the Augusta-Aiken area, the National Weather Service in Columbia reported.

In Beech Island, a large tree fell on Church Road, leading fire officials to call out the Department of Transportation to remove it. On South Carolina Highway 125, Beech Island fire officials were called to an accident caused by the rain-soaked road, Mr. Butts said. The driver refused treatment at the scene.

"People come through pretty fast, and they'll hydroplane in a heartbeat," Mr. Butts said.

Hail was reported in some areas of Beech Island, said Lt. Michael Frank with the Aiken County Sheriff's Office.

In the city of Aiken, the damage was relatively minor.

"We had two trees down and some heavy water on the roadways, but that was about it for us," said Capt. Tom Galardi with the Aiken Department of Public Safety. "There was some flooding in some spots, had heavy water on the roadways. Of course, whenever we have a thunderstorm, we have a lot of alarms going off."

Thousands of football fans watching the rescheduled Aiken-Lexington high school football game at Hagood Stadium in Aiken rushed to their cars when heavy rains came out of nowhere. As an Aiken kicker lined up to kick an extra point to tie the game, referees called the game, sending players and coaches to the locker rooms.

An announcer warned fleeing fans not to panic.

Ironically, the game had been rescheduled for Monday because Friday night's severe weather canceled that game. Late Monday, referees decided to resume the game, with only a few fans left to witness it.

In Augusta, the heavy downpour caused flooding in western and central parts of the city, and high winds brought down tree limbs that blocked traffic in some areas, including the intersection of Broad and Fourth streets. A limb knocked down near the intersection of Boy Scout and Wheeler roads covered a car.

Residents of the flood-prone Dominion Way area watched nervously as rainwater began to pool in their yards.

"Everything is starting to back up," said Pam Huckaby, one of a group of Dominion Way residents who stood outside with umbrellas watching the water rise Monday night.

"`We've started to put stuff up now," she said. "This is no way to live."

Despite the strong wind gusts and heavy rain, Columbia County escaped Monday night's storm virtually unscathed.

"We had some lightning, thunder, wind and rain, but no major problems," said Pam Tucker, director of the county's Emergency Management Agency.

According to Mrs. Tucker, the county received anywhere from an inch to an inch and a half of rainfall Monday evening.

The National Weather Service expected the rain to taper off at about midnight. The cold front that propelled the storm into the area should bring lower temperatures for the rest of the week, with highs in the upper 70s and lows in the 50s.

Staff Writers Alisa DeMao and Ashlee Griggs contributed to this article.

Reach Greg Rickabaugh at (803) 279-6895.