LAURENS COUNTY, S.C. (WSPA) – The National Weather Service confirmed an EF1 tornado hit Laurens County Thursday night.
The winds may be gone but the damage is still there.
“I think that we are very lucky that nobody was hurt, but I don’t think it should minimize what a tornado can do,” said Sheila Kirkland.
Sheila Kirkland is emergency management 911 director for Laurens County. She said the first call came in just before 6 p.m. Thursday evening. The majority of the calls were for trees down.
“Then we got a call that the car wash in Joanna was completely demolished,” she said.
Friday, crews took to the streets to see leftover damage.
“Today, we went back out in partnership with the National Weather Service and we did a deep dive into some assessments of the trees down and damage to personal property,” said Kirkland.
Kirkland said Renno Road took the brunt of the impact, but the EF1 tornado stretched out throughout the county.
“It was 9 miles long. It started in Joanna, we believe it started in or around where that car wash was at on Main Street, and went all the way out to Highway 72,” she stated.
Emergency Management Services crews were prepared to answer every call.
“We were under the tornado watch and when we looked at it early yesterday, the percentage was low,” said Kirkland. “When you’re in Emergency Management Services, you know it don’t matter how low it is, if there’s a chance then there’s a chance.”
The director said they weren’t the only ones prepared.
“Every person that we came into contact with, today, we asked them, did you know the tornado was coming? If so, how did you find out? Everybody that we talked to was aware that the tornado was coming.”
Kirkland said people either had weather alert radios, saw the warnings on TV or got an alert.
This isn’t the first tornado to hit Laurens, Kirkland said the last one was in March of 2021.
“It’s not to be taken lightly, we’re just blessed this time. Same thing for the next time when it happens. It’s not if it happens, it’s when it’s going to happen again,” she said.
To prepare, Kirkland said find a secure building and get away from any windows. If you are in your car when a tornado hits, turn around if there’s time, try to find a secure building or hide in a ditch.
Kirkland said every warning needs to be taken seriously.
Emergency Management Services is still assessing damages and if you didn’t see crews out on Friday, call and report your damage.
If you don’t have a weather alert radio, free ones are available to all citizens of Laurens County, you just stop by the Emergency Management office.