Couple killed in EF-3 tornado in Orangeburg County identified

Homes on Preserver Road were damaged by a severe storm on Monday morning. Officials say two...
Homes on Preserver Road were damaged by a severe storm on Monday morning. Officials say two people have died and two others were seriously injured during the storm.((Source: WIS))
Updated: Apr. 13, 2020 at 4:59 PM EDT
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ORANGEBURG COUNTY, S.C. (WIS) - Two people died and two others were seriously hurt when a powerful EF3 tornado touched down in Orangeburg County early Monday morning.

A couple died in a home on Preserver Road in Neeses, officials said.

Gerald Chavis, 63, and his wife, 68-year-old Doris Chavis, both died of blunt force trauma, the coroner said.

The sheriff said the home was lifted up by heavy winds and carried over to the highway.

Deputies found several others trapped in homes.

Sheriff Leroy Ravenell said two young people were hospitalized following the storm with serious injuries. However, both of them are expected to be OK.

Officials have assessed some of the damage by flying overhead in a helicopter and are continuing to gather more information.

Many other neighbors on Preserver Road had homes that were completely destroyed from the storm as well.

“The wind was going wild. It was like you were on a roller-coaster, the wind sounded like a freight train was coming through,” Annie Chavis, a resident on Preserver Road said.

Annie Chavis said she heard the sirens go off on her phone at about 4:30 this morning, and within 60 seconds the storm hit.

“For it to actually hit around you, and just destroy everything, it’s like our house that burned down in November, you don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone,” Chavis said.

Orangeburg County Sheriff Leroy Ravenell said Preserver Road, where Chavis lives with her fiancé and three young sons was the hardest hit.

Chavis says their home is destroyed, but she’s just thankful that her family was safe inside their home. She said that Gerald and Doris were not only her neighbors but her cousins.

“Material stuff you can replace, but people you can’t,” Chavis said.

Orangeburg Sheriff Leroy Ravenell said multiple people across the county had to be hospitalized, including two other people who live along this road who now have severe injuries.

“We had to help get some out of their homes and were transported by EMS, others by personal vehicles, but its devastating to say the least,” Sheriff Ravenell said.

Sheriff Ravenell said A SLED helicopter also flew over the county this morning finding others who were trapped inside their homes. He said authorities used chain saws to get people out of their homes.

“Closest I’ve seen like this is Hugo back in 89, but nothing else like this,” Sheriff Ravenell said.

Many families, neighbors, and loved ones gathered at the destroyed homes today, trying to salvage what they could, during what Chavis said was an already difficult time.

“We was dealing with one situation with the coronavirus and now we are dealing with this, this is right here in your face, it’s right now, you have to deal with it so,” Chavis said.

This wasn’t the only place in the state where the storms turned deadly.

In Hampton County, five people died in a tornado touchdown, officials said. In neighboring Colleton County, a grandmother died when a tree fell on her house.

And in the Upstate, a security guard working at a plant died in a tornado in Oconee County.

WIS viewers are sending in pictures of storm damage:

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