Thousands without power in West Ashley after strong winds knock down trees

This tree near Castlewood Townhouses was uprooted during Saturday afternoon storms.

Strong afternoon storms knocked down trees, knocked out power and even knocked over a famous giant bottle of milk in West Ashley Saturday afternoon.

National Weather Service meteorologist Ron Morales summed it up in one word: Shocking.

“I think it caught people off guard,” Morales said. “These storms developed pretty rapidly over southern Charleston County, and people who were particularly hit were in the West Ashley and Carolina Bay area.”

An outage map from South Carolina Electric & Gas Co. showed 5,322 Charleston County customers were without power at 2 p.m.

In addition to reports of downed trees, the National Weather Service got calls from people about hail in parts of the county.

While some people on social media speculated it was a tornado that tore through the Lowcountry, Morales said that is not what happened.

Instead, those strong winds are what is known as a microburst.

“Think of everything in a thunderstorm as going up as it grows,” Morales said, listing ice, water and wind. “But what goes up must come down, and it all comes down with a gust of wind.”

Usually, the winds for a thunderstorm will come down between 20-35 mph.

In a microburst, however, that wind comes down a whole lot stronger.

“When it starts getting up to gusts of 60 mph and does damage, that’s what we call a microburst.”

And that’s what happened Saturday afternoon.

Morales said winds blew somewhere between 50-60 mph.

The microburst took down trees, including one that blocked two lanes of traffic on Maybank Highway.

Photos shared on social media showed some of those trees, unfortunately, landed on parked cars.

The milk bottle that rotates alongside the Coburg Dairy cow on Savannah Highway went rolling into the roadway when winds picked up speed.

Maisha Delph, 20, was working at East Bay Deli when she saw the bottle go flying.

“It was tumbling in the road, and then a man wearing an orange shirt got out of his car and tried to pick it up,” she said. “He couldn’t get it, so it kept tumbling. Someone else got out of their car and helped him get it.”

Delph said the duo then leaned the huge bottle up against the base of the sign from which it flew.

And about that spilled milk?

“No one cried,” Delph said, laughing.

But the bovine was left spinning all alone.

Reach Caitlin Byrd at 937-5590 or follow her on Twitter at @MaryCaitlinByrd.