WHITMIRE — A Whitmire man was killed Monday afternoon when a tornado flipped over his mobile home and even more severe weather could possibly be coming Union County’s way this afternoon.
In a statement released Monday afternoon, Union County Coroner William Holcombe said that his office was called to the scene of a fatality adjacent to 225 Eaves Road in the Whitmire area of Union County. Holcombe said that a powerful storm that may have spawned a tornado overturned a mobile home on the property. He said the victim had been identified as J.C. Matthews Jr., 65, 225 Eaves Road.
Holcombe said that Matthews’ brother responded to the scene upon seeing the mobile home overturned. He said that Matthews’ brother spoke with him and then called for emergency personnel. When emergency personnel arrived on the scene, however, they determined that Matthews had died.
An autopsy was performed on Matthews’ body at Newberry Pathology Associates Tuesday morning. In a statement released following the autopsy, Holcombe stated that it had been determined that Matthews had died of internal injuries sustained when his mobile home was flipped over.
In addition to the Coroner’s Office, EMS personnel, firefighters, and Union County Sheriff’s deputies also responded to the scene.
Sheriff David Taylor said that in addition to flipping over the mobile home, the storm also snapped trees and caused wind damage to houses and other buildings in the Santuc and Whitmire Highway areas of the county.
Meterologist Harry Gerapetritis of the National Weather Service confirmed Tuesday afternoon that a tornado did touch down in the Eaves Road area of Union County.
Gerapetritis said that a Storm Survey Team dispatched to the area had determined that an EF1 tornado generating maximum winds estimated at 100 miles per hour had touched down. He said the team determined that the torndo had remained on the ground about a minute or so, traveling 1.25 miles at 60 miles per hour. When it first touched down, Gerapetritis said the torndo’s path was 150 yards wide but had tapered off to 75 yards by the end of its time on the ground.
In addition, Gerapetritis said the Storm Survey Team had determined that the storm system had also produced damaging downburst winds adjacent to the tornado itself. Gerapetritis said that in some cases storm systems like Monday’s not only produce tornados but also straight line winds in downbursts that can also cause enormous damage. He said that Monday’s downburst extended for up to 200 yards alongside the tornado’s path.
More Severe Weather Possible
Monday’s storm system may be just a taste of things to come as Union County may possibly be facing even more severe weather today.
Meteorologist Doug Outlaw of the National Weather Service in Greer said that there could be a repeat of Monday’s storms, a repeat that could possibly be worse. Outlaw said that the National Weather Service’s Storm Prediction Center had enhanced it risk prediction for the area for Wednesday to moderate risk of severe weather for most of Georgia as well as Abbeville and Edgefield counties in South Carolina. He said the area of moderate risk could be expanded to include much of the Upstate possibly setting the stage for a storm system to pass through Union County that could be even worse than Monday’s.
Gerapetritis said that the area should see showers and thunderstorms beginning around 2 p.m. Wednesday. Initially, these should not be severe in nature, but Gerapetritis said as the day goes on the system could become more unstable, especially toward evening producing severe thunderstorms, powerful winds, hail, and the possibility of torandoes. He said the system is currently expected to pass through the area and things begin calming down around 2 a.m Thursday.
Church Hit By Lightning
Monday’s storm also spawned lightning that struck Tabernacle Baptist Church in Union.
Union Public Safety Department Fire Commander Larry Robinson said Tuesday that firefighters were called to the scene at 4:39 p.m. with the Union, Southside, Monarch, and Buffalo fire departments responding.
When they arrived, Robinson found that lightning had struck the roof of the church over the back of the sanctuary. He said firefighters would remain on the scene for the next two hours putting out the fire and making certain it stayed out and covering the hole made by the lightning strike.
Robinson estimated damage to the roof at $5,000. He said it was unknown whether the lightning had ran in on anything in the church causing further damage, but that the church was supposed to be having that checked out.
Wednesday’s storm also caused more than 700 customers of Broad River Electric Cooperative in the southern part of the county to lose power.
In an outage report issued at 4:35 p.m. Monday, BREC Community Relations Manager Josh Crotzer had caused more than 700 Cooperative members to lose power. Those outages wer in the Santuc and Whitmire Highway areas of Union County. There were also a few dozen power outages in the Draytonville/McKown’s Mountain community in Cherokee County.
A subsequent report issued by Crotzer stated that the outages had peaked at 701 and that as of 6:15 p.m. Monday power had been restored to all but 113 Cooperative members. Crotzer said that those remaining without power were in the southern portion of the county in the Whitmire Highway area. He said residents on Eaves Road would likely be without power the longest because four utility poles had been broken by what was believed to have been a tornado.
In a report issued shortly before 8 a.m. Tuesday, Crotzer said that power had been restored to all Cooperative members as of 4 a.m. with the last restorations occurring on Eaves Road.
Charles Warner can be reached at 864-762-4090.