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Severe thunderstorm warning issued for Charleston, Berkeley counties Thursday night

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A tornado watch, meaning the conditions are there for a possible tornado, covers northeast South Carolina and much of North Carolina until 10 p.m. Provided/NWS

Christmas Eve brought volatile weather to much of South Carolina as the National Weather Service issued a series of watches and warnings for much of the eastern part of the state. 

A tornado watch was in place for the Pee Dee and Grand Strand, including Horry and Georgetown counties, until 10 p.m., the Weather Service said. 

Around 7:40 p.m., forecasters issued a severe thunderstorm warning for parts of Charleston and Berkeley counties as a storm system approached the area. 

The warning expires at 8:45 p.m., the Weather Service said. The line of storms were moving along a line from Saint Stephen to near Kiawah Island and was traveling east at 50 mph. 

Forecasters warned the system could produce 60 mph wind gusts, the Weather Service said, adding residents should expect damage to trees and powerlines. 

Any damage should be reported to the National Weather Service's Charleston-area office in North Charleston: 888-383-2024.

Earlier on Thursday, forecasters issued a tornado warning for an area stretching from north of Conway to Whiteville, N.C. Doug Hoehler, a meteorologist with the Weather Service in Wilmington, N.C., said a radar-indicated cell of weather began about 10 miles north of Conway and moved to the northeast at 40 to 50 miles per hour.

Hoehler said no reports from the ground had indicated tornado touchdown.

That was not the last of the day's warnings.

Shortly before 6:30 p.m., the Weather Service issued a tornado warning for Walterboro, Hampton and Varnville. It expired at 7 p.m.

As of mid-Thursday night the Weather Service hadn't gotten any reports of damage, said Courtney Maskell, a meteorologist for the agency's North Charleston office. 

There was evidence of radar-indicated rotation and forecasters will be working to see if ground crews are needed to assess the potential tornado's impact Maskell said. 

A tornado watch means the ingredients for a twister are present in the atmosphere, but one has not been spotted. A warning means a potential tornado has been indicated by radar or an observer, and those in the path should seek cover on the first flood of a sturdy structure, away from windows. 

The severe weather threat comes as storms are pushing across most of the eastern United States on Thursday. 

Forecasters with the Weather Service's Weather Prediction Center said a broad line of storms moving east ahead of a cold front could cause flooding rainstorms in the Northeast, mixed precipitation and snow from western Pennsylvania to Tennessee, and rain in the Southeast, including the chance of severe thunderstorms in the eastern half of South Carolina. 

In the Lowcountry, storms were expected to arrive between 4 p.m. and 8 p.m. for areas west of Interstate 95, and between 5 p.m. and 9 p.m. for areas to the east, the Weather Service office in Charleston said. Damaging winds that gust up to 58 miles per hour are possible. 

Gregory Yee contributed to this report.

Reach Chloe Johnson at 843-735-9985. Follow her on Twitter @_ChloeAJ.

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