The winds that caused so much damage in the Greenview neighborhood of Columbia were caused by a microburst, not a tornado, according to the National Weather Service.
When a tornado hits, trees and debris are scattered in a full 360 degrees, according to Steven Naglic, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service office in Columbia. By contrast, microbursts leave debris fanned out in one general direction, which is what happened in Greenview.
Naglic, who does the field work to verify tornados in the central South Carolina, said people often are disappointed when he declares the damage was caused by a microburst. “They think it's not as cool as saying you survived a tornado,” he said.
But microburst like those that hit Greenview and wiped out a volunteer fire station in Edgefield County on Tuesday are plenty powerful. Naglic estimates 80-85 mph winds hit Greenview, and slightly stronger winds hit the Edgefield site. Microburst winds can hit 125 mph.
Microbursts are caused by sudden downdrafts in cells embedded in a line of thunderstorms. The wind heads straight down, hits the ground and spreads out _ like water from a water balloon dropped onto a floor, Naglic explained.