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Tornadoes possible as flash flood watch issued in the Midlands

The State (Columbia, SC) logo The State (Columbia, SC) 2/18/2021 Noah Feit, The State (Columbia, S.C.)

Feb. 18—Like much of the Southeast, the Midlands faces the threat of severe weather starting Thursday.

Snow, ice, and sleet are not expected for the Columbia area, but the possibility of powerful storms are in the forecast.

A flash flood watch has been issued by the National Weather Service for Richland and Lexington counties, as well as the rest of the Midlands.

In addition to heavy rain and severe thunderstorms, damaging wind gusts and isolated tornadoes are possible across the Midlands on Thursday and Friday, according to the National Weather Service office in Columbia.

The exact timing of the severe weather is uncertain, but the greatest threat will be during the afternoon through evening, according to the briefing.

The flash flood watch is in effect until 7 a.m. Friday.

Up to an inch of rain could fall in Columbia by the end of Thursday night, as there is a 100% chance of precipitation, according to the forecast. Across the Midlands, 1-3 inches of rain is expected, the National Weather Service said on Twitter.

The expected precipitation is not the only reason for the flash flood watch. Significant amounts of rainfall in the area over the past few weeks has created saturated conditions, according to the National Weather Service.

Low lying and traditionally flood-prone areas are at the greatest risk, forecasters said.

"Avoid flood prone areas," the National Weather Service tweeted.

The worst of the storms could cause considerable damage to trees and branches, which creates the possibility of downed power lines and outages. While tree limbs could come down, it's expected that trees could topple over because the ground will be over saturated with rain.

Structures such as mobile homes, roofs, outbuildings, and vehicles would also be under siege in a tornado. Damaging wind gusts and tornadoes are more likely to occur in the southern portion of the Midlands, according to the National Weather Service.

Temperatures are expected to be in the 40s and high 30s through Thursday night, according to the National Weather Service. By the time temperatures could dip below freezing on Friday night, no more precipitation is in the forecast.

The outlook for Saturday and Sunday is for dry but cool conditions. More rain is possible on Monday, according to the forecast.

Freezing rain is in the forecast for the Upstate, according to the National Weather Service office in Greenville-Spartanburg.

Ice, snow and tornadoes battered parts of the U.S. this week, leaving at least 20 people dead and millions without power, the Associated Press reported. Some Texans have had no electricity for more than a day, and rolling blackouts could stretch into Friday.

In 2020, the Columbia area was affected by several severe storms. At one point many were powerful hurricanes including Delta and Zeta in October, Sally in September and Laura in late August. Tropical Storm Isaias also dumped significant rainfall as it rumbled through the region at the beginning of August.

In April, at least 20 tornadoes hit South Carolina in a massive storm that caused nine deaths and more injuries, in addition to damaged and destroyed property.

This is a developing story, check back for updates.

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