Albertosocks area with a tropical punch

ByChris Dixon

Wednesday,June14, 2006

Edition:FINAL, Section: NATION, Page A1

Smalltornadoes sliced through the Charleston peninsula and Awendaw Tuesdayevening as the Lowcountry braced itself against Tropical StormAlberto.

Tropical stormwarnings and flash flood watches were posted from the Midlands to thecoast while rain bands from the first named storm of the season movedinto the state. A tropical storm warning means sustained windsbetween 39 and 74 mph were expected within one day.

A wind advisoryfor sustained winds of up to 25 mph for inland areas along the southcoast also was posted.

The roughestweather for the Lowcountry was expected late Tuesday night into earlytoday, said Paul Yura, a National Weather Service meteorologist.

"During theovernight hours, we'll have a lot of moisture increasing from thesouth," he said. "And the center of Alberto will be moving across theSavannah River by early this morning. By that time, we'll stillprobably have some quite windy conditions in the very early morninghours."

Alberto madelandfall at 12:33 a.m. Tuesday at Adams Beach on the Florida

Coast with windsbetween 45 and 50 mph.

Though damage wasminimal, the storm pushed floodwaters into low-lying communities andknocked out power to about 5,000 customers near Tampa and 20,000 in aswath from Hillsborough County north to the panhandle area known asBig Bend.

By Tuesdaymorning, the weakening storm began to produce increasing wind,prodigious rainfall and the report of at least one tornado betweenSavannah and Charleston.

Forecasters saidthe center of circulation would track into South Carolina fromGeorgia by today, pushing nasty weather ahead of it.

As of 8:15 p.m.Tuesday, a peak wind gust of 32 mph was reported at the CharlestonAirport.

Forecasters saidbetween 3 and 5 inches of rain could fall in the state with higheramounts in isolated areas along the coast.

A funnel-shapedcloud struck the parking lot behind the Charleston Police Departmenton Lockwood Drive around 6 p.m.

It damaged therear windows of four police cruisers and a metal roll-up garage door,said Scott Newsome, the Charleston police fleet commander.

People nearby sawthe cloud arch onto land from the Ashley River and pass the formerCharleston Riverview Hotel on Lockwood Drive before swinging throughthe police department's rear lot, Newsome said.

"It appeared thatthere was a dramatic decrease in ambient pressure and the windowexploded out of the rear of the car," Newsome said, as he surveyedone of the vehicles.

A tornado alsotouched down near Awendaw around 8 p.m. knocking down trees.

Earlier Tuesdayafternoon, a tornado was reported in Beaufort County, according tothe National Weather Service.

By 8 p.m., 2.71inches of rain had fallen on Hilton Head Island, 1.94 inches inBeaufort and 1.45 inches at the Charleston International Airport.

Yura expectedthat rain totalling 3 to 5 inches, increasingly heavy winds as highas 45 mph, and a 6.2-foot high tide at 10:22 p.m. could create thepotential for coastal flooding through the night and duringCharleston's high tide this morning.

"We'll probablyhave some significant beach erosion," he said.

Out on the roadson Tuesday, South Carolina Highway Patrol spokesman Lance Cpl. PaulBrouthers said that Tuesday produced "a plethora" of accidents alongInterstate 26 near Dorchester Road while a spinout accident on I-526backed up westbound afternoon rush hour traffic from Virginia Avenuealmost to Mount Pleasant. The accidents snarled traffic but producedno major injuries.

In downtownCharleston, police dispatchers reported that flooding on theCrosstown Expressway had stopped traffic while accidents withoutinjuries along I-26 at Spruill and Rutledge avenues also broughttraffic to a standstill.

The ocean aroundFolly Beach and the Isle of Palms was a disappointment to surfers whohoped to catch some big surf with Tuesday morning's high tide.

College ofCharleston student Alex Kranc said he caught some fun waves atFolly's Washout but said he was eagerly anticipating larger waves ontoday.

"Surfers lookforward to hurricane season, because of the waves," he said. "But wedon't look forward to the destruction."

According to MarkMalsick, severe weather liaison for the State Climatology office,Charleston had recorded 12.38 inches of rain as of the end of May.

This wasconsiderably below the average of 16.74 inches for this period. Headded that Columbia and parts of the Upstate were more than 50percent below average precipitation.

Thus, severalinches of rain expected from Alberto would be more than welcome.

Reporters BoPetersen, Jessica VanEgeren and Noah Haglund and The Associated Presscontributed to this report.

Reach Chris Dixon at(843) 745-5855 or