Residents of the greater Augusta area were left cleaning up the damage after Wednesday night's storms. (WRDW-TV / Nov. 17, 2011)
News 12 First at Five / Thursday, Nov. 17, 2011
AIKEN, S.C. -- It can be hard to tell the difference between straight-line winds and tornadoes; both can be very scary and cause a lot of damage. Thursday, News 12 found evidence of both in our area.
Scott Huff was staked out at the fire station in Hephzibah watching storm clouds swirl in from Wrens. He grabbed his cellphone in time to catch video of a funnel cloud forming over Windsor Spring Road.
"We started noticing some rotation over to our left side, and we started focusing on that. Me and the firemen out there actually started seeing the funnel come down from the cloud and start to rotate," he said.
"It must have been 60, 70 mile an hour winds. It just started blasting us with wind and leaves and debris. That's when we retreated back into the fire station."
He says they were prepared to respond to any damage or fires sparked by the raging winds.
On the other side of the river, the Lively family's farm got the brunt of the storms on Ramsey Road. Kensley Lively says she was crying when she, her mother and two siblings piled into a car. They were trying to find sturdy shelter.
"As soon as we went to leave, the rain just started coming. It was scary and we were all upset. Trees were falling and shaking," she said.
The top of her family's barn was ripped straight off. Their collection of Christmas decorations is now scattered across their farm and their neighbor's fence.
"You couldn't see anything," Kensley remembered. "It just looked like a whole bunch of fog. And I said, 'Mama what's all that fog?' And she said, 'Honey that's not fog, that's rain!' So it came crashing down. The rain came sideways -- it didn't come straight down."
The Livelys and all of their animals are OK, but the straight-line winds flipped over two mobile homes.
"They were both actually rolled over twice and then ended up upside down," noticed Steve Naglic, a storm surveyor with the National Weather Service.
His team scouts out the worst damage to figure out how powerful the storm was. On Thursday, Naglic was testing out a new cellphone application to help.
"We have an app on here that we can take out into the field and help determine the wind speed associated with the damage," he said.
Huff says he's used to seeing emergencies, but storms like this are a scary reminder of the dark side of nature in action.
"Heed the warnings put out by all the different agencies," he reminded.
Thankfully, no injuries were reported in our area. But this is the same storm system that killed at least six people in Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina.
During severe weather, it's essential to stay in tune with watches and warnings, even if the power goes out. One tool is a weather radio, available at most local Kroger stores, which can run on battery power.
You can also sign up for News 12 text alerts and get weather information directly to your phone specific to the region in which you live.