Before Hurricane Matthew, Jeff Locker could look out the back door of his Palmetto Hall home and see nothing but trees.
Now he sees a golf course. The Category 2 storm took down dozens of trees between his Hilton Head Island home and the course.
“My property value may have gone up,” Locker said on Friday, “even with all the damage, because now I have a course view.”
The towering pines fell in a clear path behind his Fort Howell Drive home. Some of the treetops appeared to be have been chopped clear off by the wind, Locker said.
“Anybody who has stopped by has said it was a tornado,” Locker said.
The Palmetto Hall neighborhood is one of several areas in Beaufort County where residents claim a tornado touched down during the storm, though the reports have not been confirmed by the National Weather Service.
It’s difficult for the weather service to accurately track tornadoes in a hurricane, according National Weather Service Charleston meteorologist Ron Morales.
“It is very, very possible that some damage in that area was increased by some tornadoes,” said Morales. “But at this point, I’m not sure if we’ll be able to pinpoint where and when and how big they would be.”
Typically the path of a tornado can be determined by matching up winds tracked by radar with damage and eyewitness reports. But during a hurricane — especially one that strikes at night like Hurricane Matthew — there are few witnesses, and the wind damage can be so extensive that distinguishing damage caused by the hurricane and tornadoes can be difficult, Morales said.
The only nearby tornado on record during Matthew was in Chatham County, Ga., Carpenter said. But a tornado watch was in effect for Beaufort County from Friday afternoon through the storm.
Still some locals claim they spotted tornadoes or can see their effects.
“I mean look at that,” said George Cobb, standing in front of his son’s home on Confederate Avenue in Bluffton. The fence behind the home was mangled, and trees fell in a line.
“Why is one side of the street fine, but the other has so much damage?” he asked.
A resident in Fernlakes in Bluffton also believes a tornado tore through her neighborhood.
“You can see its clear path,” said resident Kally Minasi pointing at a place where winds had cut a line through the bushes. “I think it’s got to be a tornado.”
Minasi said that neighbors in the area claim to have witnessed the tornado firsthand, and the news spread through the neighborhood.
Meteorologists with the National Weather Service in Charleston ask that anyone who witnessed a tornado during Hurricane Matthew and has photos to contact the National Weather Service office at (843) 747-5860.