• EF-1 tornado confirmed near Hartsville, South Carolina, National Weather Service says

    By: Greg Suskin

    Updated:

    DARLINGTON COUNTY, S.C. - Jessica Altman had enough time to grab her children, but not enough time to get into a closet.

    "I'm lucky to still have my kids with me.  I'm so lucky," Altman said through tears.

    Thursday night's strong storms spawned at least one tornado in South Carolina.

    It hit very hard in the Hartsville area, ripping apart homes, and throwing debris everywhere.  

    [CHOPPER IMAGES: Tornado confirmed near Hartsville, SC, National Weather Service says]

    Three families on Philadelphia Street in the Oates community were in the bulls-eye of the storm.

    "The whole house just started shaking," Altman said.  “We didn't have to time to run or move."

    Items from inside of her home are now outside. 

    The roof is gone, belongings scattered.  

    The mobile home with five people inside was shoved more than 20 feet off its underpinnings.  

    Trees once in the front yard are now in the backyard.

    Behind her, there's nothing left of the home that was just remodeled.   

    (Watch raw Chopper 9 video of damage near Hartsville)

    [READ MORE: Cleanup begins after strong storms topple trees across Charlotte region]

    The family there got on the floor and prayed while watching the house lift up around them.  

    The wooden sub floor is nearly all that's left. The roof and walls are gone.

    Channel 9 was there when National Weather Service meteorologist Steve Pfaff walked through the damage from Hartsville south toward Lamar.

    He had no doubt about the power of the storm.

    "If it was a long and narrow path, it basically typifies that of a tornado," Pfaff said.

    He said the storm was an EF-1 tornado with winds of about 100 mph.  

    The path stretched several miles.

    The Red Cross arrived early and began helping families with supplies and shelter.  

    At least 10 homes were damaged, half of them are not livable.

    Dennis James never imagined the scene he found when he showed up to help.

    "When I got out here this morning, it was a whole lot worse than I think any of us expected," he said.

    Kaitlin Hays and her family live next door to Altman.  

    She stayed on the phone with her mother during the entire storm, in a room with no windows.

     

    She could hear them shattering all around her, and glass flying.

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