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Tornado heavily damages 10 homes in South Carolina

Associated Press logoAssociated Press 9/26/2015

Hilary Benjamin sits in a recliner that belongs to her good friends Julie and John Bercik, after what is believed to be a tornado hit their house on Sonny Boy Lane in Johns Island, S.C., Friday, Sept. 25, 2015. "I've been in this chair so any times, it's just weird to sit in it like this", Benjamin said before helping the Berciks' clean up their house. Officials from the National Weather Service planned to walk through the neighborhood on Johns Island about a dozen miles west of Charleston to determine if the damage was from a tornado.

Hilary Benjamin sits in a recliner that belongs to her good friends Julie and John Bercik, after what is believed to be a tornado hit their house on Sonny Boy Lane in Johns Island, S.C., Friday, Sept. 25, 2015. "I've been in this chair so any times, it's just weird to sit in it like this", Benjamin said before helping the Berciks' clean up their house. Officials from the National Weather Service planned to walk through the neighborhood on Johns Island about a dozen miles west of Charleston to determine if the damage was from a tornado.
© AP Photo/Mic Smith

JOHNS ISLAND, S.C. — A tornado quickly blew through a neighborhood on the South Carolina coast early Friday and blew out windows, knocked down trees and heavily damaged ten homes.

The tornado touched down around 1 a.m. with maximum winds of 130 mph. It was on the ground for nearly 7 miles, according to the National Weather Service. No injuries or deaths were reported.

Most of the damage happened on Sonny Boy Lane, a neighborhood on Johns Island about a dozen miles west of Charleston. In that community, John Bercik awoke to heavy rain and jumped from his bed as "it started to howl like a train."

"When the roar started I was terrified. It was a very intense moment," Bercik said.

By the time he made it out of his bedroom door, the rest of the house was gone — walls blown in, roof missing and the floor spun and moved off the piers the home sat on. He had to find an umbrella to keep the rain off as he searched his living room for his cellphone.

Bercik's house was the most severely damaged. Others had trees on roofs or shingles blown off. Dozens of volunteers were helping cut damaged trees with chain saws. Officials said about 75 homes suffered some damage, such as shingles blown off roofs.

Meteorologists issued a tornado warning several minutes before the storm, and radar returns indicated a tornado in the area, blowing debris up to 20,000 feet high into the air.

Forecasters said several people in the area woke up to their smartphones screeching with a tornado warning.

The tornado was the only tornado reported in the U.S. in the past six days. Meteorologists said the biggest threat Friday was flooding from heavy rain and from onshore winds during high tides.

Crews had to help some people out of trapped homes, but no one was hurt, said James Ghi, a battalion chief with the St. John's Fire District.

"Obviously, we're really thankful," Ghi said.

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