COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — South Carolina’s deadliest tornado outbreak in 36 years now also includes the strongest twister to hit the state since 1995.
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The April 13 tornado that killed five people in Hampton County was upgraded to an EF-4 twister with winds estimated at 175 mph (280 kph), according to a report issued Friday by the National Weather Service in Charleston.
Meteorologists said they further studied the damage to a two-story home whose roof and nearly all walls were demolished and spread through a yard, and after consulting with outside experts, decided to upgrade the tornado.
EF-4 is one step below an EF-5 tornado, which is the strongest recorded. South Carolina has never had an EF-5 tornado.
The Hampton County storm was only the 11th EF-4 tornado in the state since 1950 and the first twister that powerful since a November 1995 tornado in Marion County.
The 1995 tornado destroyed the sanctuary at Pleasant Grove Baptist Church near Galivants Ferry. The church bell was found 400 yards (365 meters) away.
Twenty-five tornadoes struck the state on April 13, killing nine people. It was the deadliest outbreak since March 1984 when 12 twisters killed 15 people. The number of tornadoes was the fourth-highest ever to hit South Carolina in one storm system since 1950.
The biggest outbreak was 45 twisters caused by Hurricane Frances as it made landfall and hooked west of the state in September 2004.
Seven of the tornadoes earlier this month were EF-3s. The state hadn’t had a tornado that powerful in over a decade.
The 175 mph (280 kph) winds in the Hampton County tornado were equivalent to a Category 5 hurricane.
The strongest hurricane to strike South Carolina in the past century was Hurricane Hazel, which struck near the state line with North Carolina with 150 mph (240 kph) winds in October 1954. Hurricane Hugo had winds of 140 mph (225 kph) when it struck near Charleston in September 1989.
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