Storms claim at least 2 lives


View Storm damage 4/10/09 in a larger map
Map: Reports of storm damage and the tornado's path on Friday night. The tornado is believed to have begun in Grovetown and moved to Augusta, then to Aiken.

Two people were killed in Aiken County as a result of severe storms that swept through the Augusta area late Friday night.

Michael New of Aiken County Emergency Management said one person was killed when a tree fell on a truck near New Ellenton during the storm. Another person was killed when ejected from a vehicle near Windsor, he said.

He did not have the names of the victims.

The storm system wielding gusty winds, rain and lightning hit the Augusta area hard. Tornadoes were reported, but unconfirmed near Harlem High School in Columbia County, in west Augusta near Bobby Jones Expressway and on Aiken-Augusta Highway in North Augusta and Clearwater, said Leonard Vaughn, meteorologist with the National Weather Service in West Columbia, S.C.

Residents of Amara HealthCare are being evacuated due to damage to the nursing home on 2021 Scott Road in south Augusta. University Hospital spokeswoman Rebecca Sylvester said shortly after 1 a.m. that the hospital was preparing to receive 32 patients being sent by bus. Ms. Sylvester said she did not know if any of the patients were injured.

Patients are being divided between area hospitals based on available bed space, she said.

The storm came through about 10:30 p.m. Friday.

"We believe the tornado began in Grovetown and moved to Augusta, then to Aiken," Mr. Vaughn said. "A lot of the damage we won't know about until Saturday."

In Grovetown, three mobile homes were damaged, and Red Cross representatives were trying to provide shelter for displaced residents.

A number of people in Aiken County were taken to Aiken Regional Medical Centers and the Medical College of Georgia Hospital, Mr. New said. He said U.S. Highway 278 from Atomic Road to Green Pond Road was impassable, with trees down all along the route.

In the Browns Road area of Harlem power lines and close to a dozen trees were down, according to Columbia County sheriff's Deputy John Williams. There were no injuries, he said.

Deputy Williams said trees were down in a number of other areas, including Grovetown.

More than 11,000 homes were without power late Friday night in the Augusta area, said Georgia Power spokeswoman Lynn Wallace. More than 3,900 customers in Columbia County and 7,100 in Richmond County would not have power until early this morning.

Golf-ball-size hail, downed trees and power lines littered Grovetown, Appling and Evans, said Columbia County Emergency Services Director Pam Tucker.

In Thomson, fallen trees and power lines damaged homes along Moose Club Road, according to McDuffie County 911 dispatchers. No injuries were reported, but a woman on Boneville Road near Dearing was briefly trapped in her home before being rescued. Crews from Georgia Power and Jefferson Electric Cooperative were working to restore power, and emergency crews helped residents remove cars from ditches and debris from yards.

In Aiken County, more than 2,300 customers were without power, according to spokeswoman Roxanne Argo of South Carolina Electric & Gas.

South Carolina Bureau Chief Preston Sparks and Morris News Service contributed to this story.