Originally created 05/24/05

Damages were not caused by tornado



National Weather Service officials determined Monday that wind damage in Evans from a Friday afternoon thunderstorm was not the result of a tornado.

Instead, officials say the damage was caused by a downburst of 80 to 90 mph winds, which is the equivalent of an F1 tornado or a high category 1 hurricane in strength.

"A lot of people called and said 'I know it had to be a tornado,' and it was that same force ... So they're right. It just wasn't rotating," said Pam Tucker, Columbia County's emergency services director, adding that the only difference between a downburst and a tornado is the wind is not rotating in a down burst.

Also Monday, National Weather Service officials determined a rotation of high winds occurred near Tradewinds Marina near Thurmond Lake in Columbia County on Friday.

"The radar indicated we had rotation at 5,000 feet above the ground, but there was no indication that anything came down," said Steve Naglic, a meteorologist for the weather service in West Columbia, S.C. He said the lofty rotation caused a downburst in that area of about 60 to 70 mph.

Friday's storm caused dozens of trees to fall in the Evans area, with the worst hit area being Country Place subdivision, where some homes were damaged by falling trees and high winds. The storm also caused damage to some docks at Tradewinds Marina. On Monday, the damage was still being assessed.

Unrelated to Friday's storm, Mrs. Tucker said the weather service is considering changing its severe thunderstorm watch or warning classification to a wind and hail watch or warning. She said people often associate a severe thunderstorm warning with heavy rain or lightning, when it should be associated with a prediction of high winds and hail.

"The weather service is in discussion right now about changing that whole classification to help people better understand what they're issuing," she said.

Mrs. Tucker said Friday's high winds were the worst Columbia County has experienced since February 2003, when an F2 tornado hit Windmill Plantation subdivision.

Reach Preston Sparks at 868-1222, ext. 115, or preston.sparks@augustachronicle.com.