Florence winds: Fort Mill gas station canopy down; U.S. 521 blocked in Indian Land

Tropical Storm Florence blows Fort Mill gas station roof down

Wind gusts over 40 mph with Tropical Storm Florence knocked the canopy off the Gulf station Saturday at the intersection of Spratt and White streets in Fort Mill. The gas tanks are closed, but other fuel tanks at the store are open.
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Wind gusts over 40 mph with Tropical Storm Florence knocked the canopy off the Gulf station Saturday at the intersection of Spratt and White streets in Fort Mill. The gas tanks are closed, but other fuel tanks at the store are open.

Strong winds Saturday afternoon from Tropical Storm Florence caused havoc in northern York and Lancaster counties.

Wind gusts over 40 mph knocked the canopy off the Gulf station at the intersection of Spratt and White streets in Fort Mill. The Gulf station near downtown remains, officials said.

No injuries were reported, said Maj. Bryan Zachary of the Fort Mill Police Department.

There are fuel pumps on the far side of the station still available. The broken canopy didn’t appear to have damaged the pumps beneath them, and there were no visible signs of gasoline in the area.

Monroe White Street in Fort Mill is closed after a utility pole started leaning over the road, Zachary said.

High winds knocked down power lines on U.S. 521 in Indian Land that blocked the entire highway.

Saturday evening all traffic in both directions of the major connector between Indian Land and Ballantyne in Mecklenburg County is closed, said Russell Rogers, Lancaster County Fire Marshal.

Florence, downgraded from a hurricane but still packing a powerful punch, began to move through York County, S.C. and left many homes and businesses without power on Sept. 16, 2018.

On West Shiloh Unity Road south of the 521 incident, a large tree fell damaging two houses and two cars, and blocked the road, Rogers said. No one was injured, officials said.

Trish Startup, spokesperson for York County, said emergency response officials met at 5:30 p.m. Saturday.

In York County, from 7 p.m. to midnight, sustained winds will be up to 23 mph and rainfall is expected at 1-2 inches per hour, with heaviest rains expected at that time, Startup said in an email.

“Winds will start decreasing after midnight and throughout tomorrow, with 10 mph sustained and no gusts,” she said in a statement. “The projected rain total for the entire event is 6 to 8 inches. Flash flooding is a concern.”

More than 4,300 customers in the three counties were without power Saturday morning, including more than 2,300 in York County, officials said. But by 1 p.m. Saturday those numbers were down to 867.

Trees were down in Fort Mill and Tega Cay Friday, and in Lancaster County, the storm closed a major highway that is open only for emergency vehicles. Power lines and trees were toppled in parts of Lancaster County.

In Rock Hill, a family of five that includes four children escaped injury after a tree fell on their home. The house on Ebenezer Avenue Extension was destroyed. The family is staying in a hotel and American red Cross officials are assisting.

The York County Sheriff’s Office said Lawrence and Brian roads in Clover is another spot where trees and power lines are down.

Rock Hill police later shared a photo of a tree limb down on a car at the Glenarden Apartments.

A downed power pole Friday night at Kershaw Camden Highway, in front of Andrew Jackson Middle School in Lancaster County, knocked out power for residents there that as of early Saturday afternoon still hadn’t been restored. It came back on mid-afternoon.

A large tree and power line are down on Standard Street in Rock Hill.

Meanwhile, law enforcement posted online that Lake Wylie is whitecapping with the wind.

Rain started to fall in northeastern York County around 7 a.m. Saturday. As the storm moves west, the rain is expected to continue through Sunday, officials said.

Wind gusts were reported of up to 40 mph in Lancaster County, in eastern York County, and in Charlotte, weather officials said.

Florence has been downgraded to a tropical storm, but still is expected to bring anywhere from 8 to 15 inches of rain to York, Chester and Lancaster counties, officials said Saturday morning.

All three counties remain under a flash flood watch and tropical storm watch. Chester has asked hundreds of residents to evacuate flood-prone areas near downtown.

The storm is moving west slowly, meaning the flooding and wind gusts are imminent, officials said.

Lancaster County has about 20 trees down that affected power lines, officials said. U.S. 521 in southern Lancaster County, the main north/south road, is open only to emergency vehicles after trees fell into the highway south of Kershaw, said Darren Player, emergency management director.

Rock Hill Mayor John Gettys released a video message to residents Friday with city website information and phone numbers for power outages and other information during Tropical Storm Florence.

“We already have the outer bands of rain and wind in Lancaster County,” Player said. “We waited for this storm - and now it’s here. And it could be historic rainfall.”

Power outages are expected to get worse and possibly last for days. Impacts for our area are saturated ground, localized flooding, trees down, and power outages, National Weather Service officials said at 5 a.m. Saturday.

The bulk of York County power outages by Saturday morning were York Electric Cooperative customers, according to outage maps. Lancaster County had more than 1,800 power outages, utility officials reported. Chester County had around 200 outages.

In York County, most of the outages were from the loss of the Indian Hook substation impacting customers in the Mount Gallant and Museum roads ares of Rock Hill.

But several thousand customers were without power in counties west of Lancaster as the storm moves through southern North Carolina and South Carolina toward Lancaster County, Player said.

Counties just to the east - Chesterfield in South Carolina, and Richmond and Anson in North Carolina -- had tens of thousands of outages and dozens of trees down, officials said.

“That weather there to our east is coming here” Player said.

The National Weather Service said in a 5 a.m update Saturday that “life-threatening, catastrophic and prolonged significant river flooding” is possible.

Police called the few trees down Friday “just the beginning.”

Rock Hill Police Capt. Mark Bollinger, part of York County’s emergency response team, said “This storm is coming - it is just slower. But it will arrive. And it will rain and rain hard.”

Nicole Sanchez and her four kids were okay, but their house on Ebenezer Ave. extension in Rock Hill, S.C., was not okay after a tree fell on it early Saturday morning, Sept. 15, 2018. The outer band of Hurricane Florence reached the area late Friday.

Chester County had more than 70 people stay in shelters through Saturday after asking for evacuations, said Ed Darby, assistant director of emergency management. Darby urged residents not to let their guard down because the storm has “slowed to a turtle-like crawl.”

“We are going to get hit,” Darby said. “The storm is moving slower than was projected, but it is moving. And it is coming here.”

Check back for updates.

Andrew Dys: 803-329-4065, @AndrewDysHerald
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