Strong storms slam Horry; at least 9 injured

A violent storm late Friday caused extensive damage in western Horry County and left several trees downed, power outages and at least nine people injured, including two firefighters.

The storm, which hit around 11 p.m., toppled a mobile home with seven people inside. Two firefighters were injured when the vehicle they were driving to a storm-related call hit a fallen tree.

The storm quickly set off a barrage of calls from people reporting damage, injuries and power outages. Officials also are investigating a report of a possible tornado touchdown in the Loris area. No serious injuries were reported.

Emergency officials worked through the night Friday and into Saturday at the Horry County Emergency Operations Center, which is not yet fully operational, to coordinate storm clean-up efforts. Crews would work on clean up through Saturday morning, said Todd Cartner, Horry County Fire Rescue spokesman.

Officials from the National Weather Service in Wilmington, N.C., said they will investigate today to determine whether a tornado caused any of the damage.

Downed power lines, lightning strikes and heavy rains were reported in Surfside Beach and across Horry County. There were multiple reports of structure fires through mid-morning Saturday.

Cartner said damage reports began coming in around 11 p.m., including a report of a home overturned off S.C. 9 with seven people inside.

The people inside the home were taken to area hospitals, three to a hospital in Loris and four to a hospital in Marion, Cartner said. They were released.

He said a firetruck rushing to the scene of the overturned home crashed into a tree that was blown down in its path. Two firefighters in the truck were injured and taken to the Loris hospital, he said.

Officials at the National Weather Service said they also received a report of an overturned 18-wheeler, but it was not clear where the vehicle was at the time.

Around 12:30 a.m. officials received reports of nickel-sized hail, according to Dave Lowenthal, a forecaster from the National Weather Service. He said additional storms are possible during the afternoon Saturday.

Among the worst-hit area was the Mount Olive Community community north of S.C. 9, said Lisa Bourcier, Horry County spokeswoman.

At the height of the storm, 1,839 electric customers experienced power loss, the bulk of whom were in Surfside Beach, Garden City Beach and Pawleys Island, said Santee Cooper spokeswoman Laura Varn.

Bourcier said there was a significant amount of damage to structures, trees down and other storm-related fallout on Mt. Olive Church Road between S.C. 917 and the N.C. state line near Duford.

The American Red Cross is assisting the seven residents who were displaced by the storm, Bourcier said.

The Horry County emergency management department partially opened its emergency operations center from 11:30 p.m. to 2:30 a.m. It will re-open later this morning.

Continuing coverage of the overnight storm will be posted throughout the day.