FIRST ALERT: Multiple Lowcountry counties under tornado watch

The watch includes Charleston, Berkeley, Dorchester, Colleton, Beaufort and Orangeburg Counties.
The watch includes Charleston, Berkeley, Dorchester, Colleton, Beaufort and Orangeburg Counties.(Live 5)
Updated: Mar. 18, 2021 at 4:01 PM EDT
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CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - Much of the Lowcountry is now under a tornado watch ahead of severe storms expected to move through later in the afternoon.

The tornado watch includes Charleston, Berkeley, Dorchester, Beaufort, and Colleton Counties and is in effect until 6 p.m.

The watch also includes Allendale, Bamberg, Barnwell, Hampton and Jasper Counties.

That weather threat includes severe thunderstorms, damaging winds, large hail, and isolated tornadoes.

A tornado watch means conditions are favorable for the formation of a tornado. If a tornado is actually spotted, the National Weather Service will issue a tornado warning for that specific area.

Overnight, the Storm Prediction Center has shifted its forecast for the worst of the severe weather, pinpointing it more toward the Grand Strand area.

In doing so, it dropped much of the Lowcountry from a “moderate” risk category, a “four” on a five-point scale in which five represents the most severe threat, to a “three.”

Portions of the Lowcountry, including much of Georgetown County and a small portion of Williamsburg County, remain under the moderate risk threat.

But the reduction of risk for much of the Lowcountry does not eliminate the chance for dangerous, damaging storms for Lowcountry counties, Meteorologist Joey Sovine said.

He said the storm prediction center also warned of the possibility of stronger-than-normal tornadoes. Much of the Lowcountry is under a 10% chance of a tornado forming within 25 miles of any location, but Georgetown and portions of Williamsburg County remained under a 15% chance of a tornado forming anywhere within 25 miles of their locations.

The timetable for the strongest storms in the Lowcountry are between 1 p.m. and 7 p.m., which means storms could affect the afternoon commute.

Sovine said the worst of the weather should begin to move out at around 6 p.m.

As of early Thursday morning, there are no active watches or warnings for the Lowcountry. But that is expected to change over the course of the day as a cold front continues its path across the southeast.

That cold front is blamed for producing a wave of storms that pounded the Deep South Wednesday afternoon. Storms left a trail of splintered trees and damaged buildings and reported tornado sightings.

Scattered damage was reported in Alabama, Mississippi and Texas.

As of Thursday morning, more than 12,000 power outages had been reported in Alabama.

Ahead of the storm, make sure everyone in your home knows what to do if a severe storm or tornado should threaten your home. Have a plan to take shelter ready to go if you need it.

Make sure smartphones and other devices are fully charged ahead of the severe weather. Strong storms can knock out power and your devices can continue to give you updates on the weather if your home loses electricity.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.

Copyright 2021 WCSC. The Associated Press contributed to this report. All rights reserved.