SC tornadoes were among longest, strongest of 131 twisters to hammer Southern states
When the explosive storm system's march made it to South Carolina the morning of April 13, it brought some of the confirmed longest and strongest tornadoes with it.
An explosive storm outbreak ravaged the South Easter Sunday night and in the early morning hours that Monday, killing at least 34 people — nine in South Carolina — and leaving thousands of homes and businesses without power across the region.
Early reports indicate that some of the most furious twisters hit South Carolina, according to a storm survey of 131 confirmed tornadoes in ten states by the National Weather Service Eastern Region on April 17.
South Carolina was hit by 21 confirmed tornadoes, the third-highest number of any state hit by the outbreak.
Most of the EF3 storms, described as strong tornadoes, were also spotted in South Carolina: Of the 12 EF3 storms on the Enhanced Fujita Scale, seven tore through Hampton, Pickens, Oconee, Barnwell, Orangeburg, Calhoun and Aiken counties.
The other confirmed EF3 storms battered Louisiana, Tennessee, Georgia and Mississippi.
Two EF4 storms, the highest-ranked on the survey, devastated Mississippi.
Gov. Henry McMaster declared a state of emergency Wednesday afternoon in response to the storms, citing "catastrophic impacts" in his executive order.
An EF3 tornado has wind speeds of 136 to 165 miles per hour, strong enough to collapse walls and uproot trees, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
Most of the confirmed tornadoes from this outbreak were either EF1 or EF0 — about 73%. That means winds were from 65 to 110 mph, causing light to moderate damage.
Surveys are ongoing, so these preliminary numbers and rankings will likely change.
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Experts already know long-tracks tornadoes are unusual for South Carolina. Normally, they touch down quickly and produce less damage in a smaller area.
This was the nation's deadliest tornado outbreak in six years, since April 25-28, 2014, when 35 people were killed in the central and Southern US, the Storm Prediction Center said.
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Twelve people died in Mississippi.
Tornadoes ripped across Texas, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Florida, Tennessee and Georgia beginning Easter Sunday night and continuing into the Carolinas Monday morning.
The fierce storm system also triggered flooding and mudslides in mountainous areas and knocked out electricity for nearly 1.3 million customers from Texas to Maine, according to poweroutage.us.
Even in areas not impacted by tornadoes, high winds caused issues. About 50,000 residents in both Connecticut and Massachusetts were without power at the height of the storm.
USA Today contributed to this story.