Downpour pounds Beaufort County

loberle@islandpacket.comJune 23, 2014 

A slow-moving thunderstorm knocked out power and produced heavy rainfall Monday in Beaufort County.

More than 4,000 customers were without power in Beaufort County at 2:45 p.m., with nearly all of the outages in the Beaufort area, according to SCE&G outage maps.

About 140 remained without power at 7:30 p.m.

A waterspout -- a rotating column of water whipped up by a whirlwind -- formed over the Beaufort River at about 2:30 p.m. and could be seen from Henry C. Chambers Waterfront Park in Beaufort, according to Jonathan Lamb, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Charleston.

About 2 1/2 inches of rainfall caused localized flooding throughout Beaufort and the town of Port Royal, including a section of Boundary Street near Beaufort National Cemetery and parts of Robert Smalls Parkway near U.S. 21.

Water rose halfway up the legs of shopping carts in the Beaufort Town Center parking lot on Boundary Street and to the doors of some low-sitting vehicles on Bay Street.

However, the area between Bluffton and Sun City saw the most rainfall in Beaufort County, with 3 to 4 inches, Lamb said.

The weather did not cause any traffic accidents or major traffic delays in the county, according to the Beaufort County Sheriff's Office.

The county administration building on Ribaut Road in Beaufort was without power for about 30 minutes, though that hardly interrupted County Council's Community Services Committee meeting, the last 20 minutes of which was lit by a small ceiling light and the glow of iPad screens.

The power outage continued into the Finance and Governmental Committee meeting, which began at 2:30 p.m. Councilman Brian Flewelling used the flashlight app on his smartphone to illuminate Beaufort County attorney Josh Gruber as he talked at the podium.

Palmetto Electric Cooperative reported no power outages in the county Monday, according to spokeswoman Missy Santorum.

Lightning struck a tree in Belfair Plantation in Bluffton, causing a small fire at a home on Cumberland Drive, according to Bluffton Fire District spokesman Randy Hunter. The fire was quickly extinguished, and there was minimal damage.

Wind gusts at 32 mph were reported at Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort at about 2:12 p.m.

The National Weather Service in Charleston predicts a slight chance of thunderstorms Tuesday, with a 40 percent chance of rain for Beaufort County.

The weather service predicts a 20 percent chance of rain on Wednesday and Thursday, and a 30 percent chance of rain on Friday and Saturday.

Follow reporter Laura Oberle at twitter.com/IPBG_Laura.

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