Update 5:15 pm Thursday: Severe storms are moving out of the Columbia metro area. However, they continue near North Augusta and are approaching Sumter. Additional storms are approaching Interstate 95 from the Florence area southward toward Berkeley and Dorchester counties. Damaging winds in excess of 60 mph, frequent lightning, and torrential rain are likely.
Storms will approach the Grand Strand (in Georgetown and Horry counties) between now and 6:30 PM.
Update 4:15 pm Thursday: Radar is showing the potential for damaging thunderstorm winds near Lake Murray, Lexington, and Irmo. These storms are headed for metro Columbia and a Severe Thunderstorm Warning is in effect for central Richland, Lexington, and northwestern Calhoun county until 5 PM.
A Severe Thunderstorm Warning is also in effect until 5 PM for areas near Edgefield, Aiken, and North Augusta. Damaging winds and hail are likely with storms in these areas.
Update 4 pm Thursday: Thunderstorms producing large hail and damaging winds are headed for southern Newberry, Edgefield, Saluda, and northwestern Lexington counties. The environment is becoming increasingly favorable for destructive, straight-line winds in excess of 70 mph over the western suburbs of Columbia between 4 and 5 PM. Lightning and torrential rain are approaching I-26 between Newberry and Columbia. Lexington, Saluda, and Batesburg-Leesville will be in the path of these storms.
Another cluster of damaging wind-producing thunderstorms between Blackville and Springfield will affect northeastern Barnwell, northwestern Bamberg, and west-central Orangeburg counties through at least 4:15 PM. A Severe Thunderstorm Warning is in effect for those counties.
These storms have already produced wind damage in Elbert county, Georgia earlier this afternoon.
Update 3 pm Thursday: Thunderstorms east of Athens, GA have moved eastward and are entering the state. Severe Thunderstorm Warning has been issued for Abbeville and McCormick counties. The thunderstorms are likely to move into Greenwood county. Locally damaging winds, frequent lightning, and torrential rain are likely with these fast-moving storms. Additional storms are developing in the Midlands and are forecast to intensify between 3 PM and 5 PM.
Update 2 pm Thursday: The National Weather Service has issued a Severe Thunderstorm Watch for the entire state of South Carolina until 10 pm.
As of 2 pm ET, thunderstorms were beginning to develop in northeast Georgia and west-central sections of South Carolina. They are expected to intensify rapidly and pose a threat for damaging wind gusts up to 60 mph as they propogate eastward into the Midlands this afternoon.
Update 9:30 AM Thursday: The Storm Prediction Center (SPC) in Norman, OK has upgraded the entire state of South Carolina to an “enhanced” risk (level 3 out of 5) for severe thunderstorms this afternoon. Previously, the Upstate and portions of the Midlands were covered by the enhanced risk.
Forecasters at the SPC say they are expecting several swaths of wind damage across the state from multiple thunderstorm clusters. A few instances of large hail are also possible, particularly across parts of the Upstate and Midlands. Tornadoes are unlikely, but cannot be ruled out.
The most recent computer model simulations are showing the greatest risk of damaging thunderstorms after 3 pm for Greenville and Spartanburg, between 4 and 6 PM for Augusta, Columbia, and Rock Hill, and between 5 and 8 PM for Myrtle Beach/Florence, Charleston, and Hilton Head.
Original story published early Thursday morning is below...
Thunderstorms capable of producing wind damage, large hail, or even a tornado are possible over portions of the Palmetto State Thursday.
A strong upper-level storm system will be approaching the region from the west by early afternoon, likely triggering numerous clusters of fast-moving thunderstorms that will spread east across South Carolina through early evening. Over 100 accounts of wind damage were reported Wednesday from Texas to Ohio, and large hail was noted in sections of Oklahoma and Missouri from this system.
Forecasters at the Storm Prediction Center (SPC) in Norman, Oklahoma have placed portions of the the Upstate and Midlands regions in an “enhanced” risk (level 3 out of 5) for severe thunderstorms Thursday afternoon. The rest of the state falls under a “slight risk”, which is one category lower on their scale.
The primary hazard highlighted in the SPC outlook released early Thursday was damaging wind gusts up to 60 mph. However, the risks of large hail and a tornado were also noted. The area of greatest concern is in an area generally bounded by I-85 from Charlotte to Greenville, I-26 from Greenville to Columbia, I-20 from Columbia to Florence. Thunderstorms in this region are most likely to develop between 2 and 5 pm.
National Weather Service meteorologists in Greenville, who cover most of the Upstate, have expressed lower confidence in the evolution of the activity over mountainous areas west of I-85. They attribute their uncertainty to “various solutions” of forecast models and possible disruptions in wind flow from the terrain.
The strong to severe thunderstorms are likely to spread east and southeast into the Pee Dee region by late afternoon, then all the way to the Grand Strand by early evening. In these locations, wind damage will continue to be the primary concern with the strongest cells. Most of the activity will weaken and/or move offshore after sunset as the storm system pulls away from the region.