Randolph County communities begin cleanup effort after area hit by tornado

The tornado first touched down in Higbee where it flattened a building more than 100 years old. (Mark Slavit/KRCG 13)

A tornado was the cause of destruction and damage in Randolph and Monroe counties.

It began Monday afternoon around 5 p.m. The tornado first touched down in Higbee, where it flattened a building more than 100 years old. Thelma Washburn lived a few feet away and constantly thanked God for her safety.

“I was afraid the awning on my house came down on my car," Washburn said. "I looked out the door and it was fine. I looked across the street and the building was down. I thought, 'Oh my.'”

The tornado left Higbee and bounced north east through Randolph County to Renick. The tornado destroyed nearly everything at the Hargis family home including a double-wide mobile home, a garage and a barn. Ainsley Hargis found her 74-year-old mother Sheila Hargis in the rubble before she sent her to a Columbia emergency room. Ainsley said her mother was fine.

“There was a stick built garage here. It’s gone. You can see the cars are destroyed," Ainsley Hargis said. "Everything is destroyed. It’s total devastation.”

Members of the Hargis family said they heard and saw a tornado. They said the winds ripped through their property without any warning from nearby sirens in Renick and without any warning on their weather radio.

Randolph County Sheriff Mark Nichols surveyed the damage with a National Weather Service surveyor and confirmed an EF1 tornado producing winds of 100 mph.

“It was spotty. Wherever it did touch down there was quite a bit of damage," Nichols said. "There was some minor structural damage. Usually, whenever it struck a home or something, it was a total loss.”

The tornado also destroyed a work shop and two travel trailers near Renick as property owners cleaned-up and tried to get on with their lives.

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