Elsa leaves Colleton quickly but caused flooding and tornado damage

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HEATHER RUPPE

Tropical Storm Elsa’s arrival last week into South Carolina hit Colleton harder than most expected, bringing tornadoes to the Edisto area, causing flooding and leaving more than 3,000 people with reported power outages.

The tropical storm rolled into the Palmetto State from Florida on July 7th, and effects of her arrival in Colleton County began at about 7 p.m. that day. Initially, the county felt light winds and rainfall. By midnight, however, the National Weather Service (NWS) had issued a tornado warning for southeastern Colleton County. That tornado is believed to have caused tree damage on U.S. Highway 174, at Steamboat Landing Road in neighboring Charleston County, according to Barry McRoy, chief of Colleton County Fire-Rescue, the agency that oversees Colleton’s emergency preparedness operations.

By the morning of Thursday, July 8th, Elsa’s impact was in full swing: there were about 3,800 power outages in Colleton County and nine roads in the county were closed.

“Edisto reported minor debris, power outages, and some erosion, but they otherwise fared well,” said McRoy. “There were 26 reports of property damage, in all,” throughout the county, he said.

Ireland Creek Drive in Walterboro was closed on Thursday due to flooding.

McRoy and the county’s Emergency Preparedness Agency were able to provide a specific list of all damage done in Colleton, as a result of Tropical Storm Elsa.

These specific reports include trees down along Ivanhoe Road in Walterboro; trees down and blocking roads along Cottageville Highway, at Wood Road and Green Pond Highway, and roads blocked from downed trees on White Hall Road at Abberly Drive.

There were also downed trees that blocked portions of Confederate Highway and along Pellum Road. Additionally, a portion of Mable T. Willis Drive in Walterboro was also damaged from the storm.

In all, Colleton saw more than six inches of rain from Elsa, with the heaviest of the rainfall happening in Green Pond (6.74 inches of rainfall). Walterboro saw the least amount of rain, with a reported 2.4 inches of rain from the storm.

The heavy rains didn’t cause any major river level increases on the Edisto River. The river is currently sitting at about 6.2 feet, according to the NWS, which surveys the river depths at Givhans Ferry. This was the recorded depth as of press deadline on Tuesday morning. Flood stage for the Edisto is at 10 feet.

As for winds, the weather station at Colleton County Fire-Rescue’s headquarters in Walterboro recorded a 29-mph guest at 1 a.m. on July 8th.

“Many of the weather stations, including Lowcountry Regional Airport, lost power and did not record during the severe weather early on Thursday morning,” McRoy said.

Other parts of the Lowcountry had higher recorded wind guests: Beaufort saw wind gusts of 50 mph and Charleston had gusts of 47 mph, according to information provided by McRoy.

Tropical Storm Elsa is part of the named storms in the 2021 Hurricane Season, which began on June 1st and continues through Nov. 30th. The National Weather Service has designated 21 storm names for this year’s Atlantic hurricane season.

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