South Carolina

Damaging winds & tornadoes possible Thursday across Midlands and Lowcountry

A series of strong thunderstorms could bring damaging winds and even some tornadoes to the Midlands and Lowcountry on Thursday as a powerful cold front moves through the Palmetto state.

Wednesday afternoon’s surface analysis shows a major depression in the eastern Dakotas with a secondary low moving through the middle Mississippi Valley. A warm front extends east from the South Low, reaching the South Carolina-Georgia border near Savannah. South of this feature, Florida Panhandle dew points are in the mid to high 60’s. The warm front is expected to rise north overnight Wednesday into Thursday, bringing warm and unstable air to South Carolina before the passage of a cold front. The increase in humidity coupled with a strong cold front providing plenty of lift will result in a broken line of strong and violent thunderstorms over the eastern half of the state.

High resolution weather models indicate that the greatest instability is found along and east of a line from Augusta through Columbia to Darlington. Widespread rain and some embedded stronger cells are possible early Thursday morning, but daytime warming will cause stronger convection to develop by Thursday noon. The risk of severe weather will remain until early Thursday evening when the cold front slides across the state and drives thunderstorm activity offshore through midnight Friday.

The Storm Prediction Center has a “marginal” and “slight” risk of severe weather in parts of the Midlands and Lowcountry. These ratings represent a 1 and a 2, respectively, on a severe weather scale of 1 to 5 and mean that isolated, severe thunderstorms are possible. In contrast to Wednesday’s extremely volatile environment along the Gulf Coast, the severe weather setup is unlikely to be as supportive of large and numerous tornadoes. Nonetheless, the upper level wind pattern supports the risk of some rotating supercells that can create tornadoes. Aside from the tornado danger, damaging wind gusts of up to 70 miles per hour are also possible.

There is a chance that watches and warnings will be issued on Thursday. When a clock is on display, it means the ingredients for severe weather or tornadoes are present in the atmosphere. Clocks are usually issued before the weather gets bad and typically cover a fairly large geographic area for several hours. On the other hand, an alert is issued when severe weather conditions persist in a specific location, typically on a smaller geographic scale, typically covering only a few counties at a time. Alerts generally last an hour or less in a given location. Residents are encouraged to have multiple options for receiving severe weather alerts and keeping a close eye on the forecast for the next 24 hours.

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