Officials confirm 7 tornados hit state

At least seven separate tornados touched down Saturday in South Carolina, of which several were among the estimated 10 twisters spotted in Georgia, including one that churned across northern Columbia County and ended up in Bamberg, S.C., the National Weather Service said Monday.

Such an outbreak is rare, but not unprecedented, said Georgia state climatologist David Stooksbury.

"Some of these were very classic 'supercell' tornadoes," he said. "Earlier in the day, we were advising the emergency management folks at UGA to watch out for those lone wolf storms that tend to get out in front of the main system."

Several of those "loners" fanned out across east Georgia, eventually spawning twisters that caused devastation in Jefferson County and downed more than 1,000 trees across Columbia County.

"When these storms are alone and out front, as they become severe they tend to start bearing to the right," he said. "When you see that, it's indicative of a very strong storm."

Although property damage in Columbia County was minimal compared with other areas, the number of downed trees was significant enough to attract an assessment team from the Department of Natural Resources, said Pam Tucker, the county's Emergency Services director.

Another twister that spun across McCormick County, S.C., leveled many trees in Sumter National Forest, where teams were at work Monday assessing the damage, said U.S. Forest Service spokeswoman Michelle Burnett.

Despite the severe weather, warning and forecasting systems today are better than they've ever been, which helps reduce injuries, Dr. Stooksbury said.

With tornado season being at its height from March to May, Georgians should remain vigilant to changing weather, and invest in a battery-powered NOAA weather radio, he said.

"People should always keep their guard up," he said. "As far as weather conditions, the way it looks now, Wednesday could be very similar to the weekend."

Reach Rob Pavey at 868-1222, ext. 119, or rob.pavey@augustachronicle.com.