As cleanup efforts swept through the southern part of Greenwood County on Friday, crews found a dozen buildings had been damaged by falling trees and limbs, and two roads will remain closed through the weekend.

Homes, churches and barns alike were among the dozen structures that county Emergency Management Coordinator George McKinney said crews assessed for storm damage. These buildings were concentrated mostly in the southern part of the county, stretching from along Highway 221 East to Highway 68 and some toward Highway 25.

The damage was mostly minor, McKinney said, though a few buildings sustained more serious damage.

Nearly 800 Duke Energy customers were still without power as of 5 p.m. Friday, with 41 active outages listed. The company’s outage map listed an estimated time of restoration of 11:45 p.m. Friday.

Sumter Forest and Watson Hill roads will remain closed throughout the weekend, McKinney said. Sumter Forest Road is closed from Puckett Town Road to Cedar Springs Road, while Watson Hill Road is closed from Cedar Springs road to Cedar Grove Road.

The county’s road closure map is available online at

In Abbeville County, the storm toppled trees and power poles, but County Director David Garner said Friday morning that no residents were displaced or injured. Garner added that South Carolina Highway 28, shut off to southbound traffic from Abbeville on Friday morning, would hopefully reopen later in the day or Saturday morning.

Engineer Michael Hall of Little River Electric Cooperative estimated Friday afternoon that the storm disturbed power to 370 electrical meters in Abbeville and McCormick counties while downing more than 40 poles.

Close call

James Lawton was sitting on the porch Friday morning of his Callison Highway home, the enormous water oak that once stood proudly in his front yard now horizontal and leaning against the house beside him. Lawton said he was in the kitchen Thursday afternoon, avoiding the bad weather when the tree came tumbling down.

“Rain was just horizontal,” he said. “The wind just came up and wham! I was sitting right there when it fell over.”

He said he’s still thanking God this morning that he wasn’t injured — or worse — when the tree landed on the roof above him. While the tin sheet on his roof mostly peeled off in the wind, he said there doesn’t seem to be serious damage up there.

He will miss that tree, however.

“People would come by and take pictures of it, saying they couldn’t believe how big it was or how many branches its got,” he said.

The damage that spread through the Lakelands was likely caused by straight-line winds, said National Weather Service Meteorologist Harry Gerapetritis.

“The types of storms we had yesterday would have strongly supported straight-line winds,” he said.

He said as the storms moved eastward Thursday they caused extensive tree damage in Abbeville, followed by heavy damage in the southern part of Greenwood County.

There are no storms coming in the immediate future that are cause for concern, he said, but over the next 48 hours, forecasters will be watching storms in the Midwest as they travel southeast in waves.

“The real question mark is how far south these storms are going to make a run,” he said.

An ‘omen’?

Tracey Templeton Burke called her husband, Jimmy, at 3:30 p.m. Thursday to tell him a limb from an oak tree had fallen on their house in Bradley.

“I was at my office in Greenwood, downtown,” Jimmy recalled. “(It) took me two hours to get here.”

Every road home was blocked by downed tree limbs.

The fallen limb tore a hole in the house’s roof and damaged the awning of its wraparound porch, but the Burkes were in high spirits Friday afternoon.

“It’s a minor setback. We are blessed,” Jimmy said. “We are blessed beyond our means. We will absolutely bounce back from this.”

The house was rebuilt in 1887 after a “cyclone” hit the area, according to news reports from the time, and once belonged to Tracey’s great-grandfather, a magistrate, who reportedly married couples on that very porch. It had to be rebuilt several years ago after a tree blew over and damaged the very same corner.

“There’s got to be some kind of omen there,” Tracey said, laughing. “He married people, now the porch has been taken out twice. I’m not sure what that really means.”

As of Friday morning, a massive blue tarp covered the gash in their roof, from which a crew had already removed the branch.

On Thursday, Tracey was standing in the kitchen when the lights began to flicker. She was about to send Jimmy message to tell him the power had just gone out “when I heard it coming. I heard the tree.”

She moved quickly.

“I said, ‘Come on, puppies!’ And we took off to the bathroom.”

When she called Jimmy to tell him what had happened, she told him the dogs were accounted for.

“I said I got to go find the cat, but as long as the furbabies are all right, we’re good.”

Staff writer Michael Woodel contributed to this report.