An EF0 tornado touched down in Lexington County around 2:30 p.m. Wednesday, the National Weather Service’s Columbia office confirmed later in the day.
The twister, measuring 50 to 75 yards wide, touched down just north of the State Farmers Market in West Columbia, near the intersection of Charleston Highway and Dixiana Road, as Wednesday’s weather front passed through the Midlands quickly between 2 p.m. and 3 p.m.
No one was injured during the heavy rain and high winds, according to reports Wednesday evening.
The twister traveled just over a half-mile, damaging cars in its path and destroying a car storage lot, the NWS said. The Lexington County Fire Department was investigating reports of wind-caused car damage in the area of Railfreight Court, Appleton Court, Varn Road and Harrison Court, all near the Farmers Market.
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Schools across the Midlands kept children longer than usual Wednesday, dismissing late to keep buses — and perhaps parents’ cars — off the roads during the worst of the storm.
An EF0 tornado is the weakest of the wind disturbances that qualify as tornadoes. Funnel clouds aren’t considered tornadoes unless they touch the ground.
At least two other funnel cloud sightings were reported. One was along Garners Ferry Road, near the Lowe’s store and I-77 in Richland County. Another was reported nearby, off Bluff Road.
It was unclear Wednesday night exactly what had happened.
NWS officials indicated there was a cloud rotation that moved along a path from I-77 near the Congaree River to Bluff Road. One funnel cloud with multiple sightings could have accounted for nearly all of the reports.
At the storm’s height, Midlands residents’ cell phones buzzed and wailed repeatedly with NWS weather alerts and notices from school districts.
North of where the funnel cloud touched down, strong winds blew open the door of Grace Baptist Church, 416 Denham Ave. near the Charleston Highway in Lexington County, county administrator Joe Mergo said.
The gust did not cause damage to the church’s sanctuary, but a metal storage building on the property was damaged, Mergo said.
Meanwhile, unconfirmed damage to a tractor trailer and a construction yard was reported near Batesburg-Leesville. It was unclear exactly where. Batesburg-Leesville and Lexington County officials said they had had no reports of damage.
Rain is expected to continue until at least midday Thursday, the NWS said.
A flashflood warning was in effect in the Columbia, Forest Acres, Dentsville, Arcadia Lakes and Five Points areas Wednesday night because of heavy rainfall. Weather service officials urge those driving in the area through lunchtime Thursday to not drive through flooded roadways.